Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Introducing Donald Trump's tax reform. (Psst, it's a tax cut, not tax reform.)

Nope, apparently there is NOT a page two.

Just this.

Which has inspired a fair amount of ridicule.
Here is what the New York Times had to say about it:

President Trump on Wednesday proposed sharp reductions in both individual and corporate income tax rates, reducing the number of individual income tax brackets to three — 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent — and easing the tax burden on most Americans, including the rich. 

The Trump administration would double the standard deduction, essentially eliminating taxes on the first $24,000 of a couple’s earnings. It also called for the elimination of most itemized tax deductions but would leave in place the popular deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. The estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, which Mr. Trump has railed against for years, would be repealed under his plan. 

As expected, the White House did not include in its plan the border adjustment tax on imports that was prized by House Republicans. However, it did express broad support for switching to a so-called territorial tax system that would exempt company earnings abroad from taxation but would encourage companies to maintain their headquarters in the United States.

The White House is referring to this as “the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country.”

Both are untrue as other president's have initiated larger tax cuts, and there is nothing on this slip of paper that can legitimately be called a "tax reform."

 Which is something that did not escape the notice of Congressional Republicans:

"It's not tax reform," said one senior GOP aide. "Not even close."

As you might imagine the Democrats are even less impressed with this new 'plan."
Now keep in mind that Trump is attempting to implement these tax cuts while also pushing for the construction of that ridiculous border wall, a stated desire to throw money at the military, and a supposed plan to address infrastructure concerns.

How could he possibly pay for all of that while cutting taxes like this?

Simple he is going to strip 18 billion from social programs, as well as the Department of Education, The National Endowment for the Arts, and even the National Park Service.

After all what is education, access to culture and fine arts, or vacationing at Yellowstone, when compared to some corporate bigwigs ability to buy that extra yacht they have been eyeing?

However economists say that will not be enough, and suggest that this tax plan will add trillions to the deficit

Ivanka Trump's clothing line is manufactured in a Chinese sweatshop that makes its employees work 60 hour weeks for around 62 dollars.

Courtesy of WaPo: 

Workers at a factory in China used by the company that makes clothing for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line and other brands worked nearly 60 hours a week to earn wages of little more than $62 a week, according to a factory audit released Monday. 

The factory’s 80 workers knit clothes for the contractor, G-III Apparel Group, which has held the exclusive license to make the Ivanka Trump brand’s $158 dresses, $79 blouses and other clothes since 2012. The company also makes clothes for Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and other brands. 

Inspectors with the Fair Labor Association, an industry monitoring group whose members include Apple and Nike, found two dozen violations of international labor standards during a two-day tour of the factory in October, saying in a report that workers faced daunting hours, high turnover, and pay near or below China’s minimum wage. 

The inspection offers a rare look at the working conditions of the global manufacturing machine that helped make Trump’s fashion brand a multimillion-dollar business. 

Its release also comes as the president’s daughter has sought to cast herself as both a champion of workplace issues and a defender of her father’s “buy American, hire American” agenda. Trump, whose book “Women Who Work” debuts next week, was in Germany on Tuesday for public discussions about global entre­pre­neur­ship and empowerment. 

“We can add billions to the global economy by creating an enabling environment, increasing women’s labour force participation and business ownership, and improving the productivity of their work,” Trump wrote in a Financial Times essay Monday.

Well it would certainly be hard to improve productivity past 60 hour work weeks now wouldn't it? 

And since it is quite likely that a clothing manufacturing plant would hire mostly women, I guess this is how Ivanka Trump empowers women in the workforce.

Clearly Trump's own High Society Barbie is just as full of shit as her Cheeto tinged father.

Breitbart News denied congressional press passes.

Courtesy of CNN: 

Breitbart News was stymied once again on Tuesday in its efforts to secure press credentials on Capitol Hill. 

The standing committee of correspondents of the U.S. Senate Daily Press Gallery, a panel of journalists that determines which news organizations should receive congressional press passes, voted to table Breitbart's bid for permanent passes and to discontinue the right-wing outlet's temporary credentials without an extension. 

Breitbart's temporary credentials expire on May 31. 

Laura Lytle, the director of the Senate Press Gallery, said that Breitbart's application was tabled until the outlet "can sufficiently demonstrate that they meet the requirements of Rule 4 of the Congressional rules governing the Gallery." 

One part of that rule says, "Applicants' publications must be editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government, or that is not principally a general news organization."

Well clearly Breitbart does not meet those criteria.

They are a propaganda outlet for Donald Trump.

However since Steve Bannon is still skulking around the White House somewhere there still exists the possibility that Breitbart will eventually get those credentials. 

And on that day it will signify yet another stake through the heart of American journalism.

Donald Trump's sanctuary city order blocked by judge. And another executive order bites the dust. Update!

Courtesy of Bloomberg: 

The ruling Tuesday bars President Donald Trump from withholding funds from jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal agencies to deport undocumented immigrants, marking his second setback in court on immigration. As with its temporary travel ban on six mostly Muslim nations now on appeal, the White House said it expected to ultimately win its case against sanctuary cities in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In response to this Trump expressed disappointment but recognized the importance of the separation of powers, and simply said he would go back to the drawing board.

Just kidding, he threw a Twitter tantrum.


As Snopes has pointed out only about on tenth of one percent of the Ninth Circuit cases ever even go to the Supreme Court. But yes of those about 80% are overturned, though that could be attributed to the make up of the Supreme Court which for decades has skewed to the Right.

And with Gorsuch now firmly seated in the Court, there may indeed exist the possibility that this will get overturned even though the executive order violates the Constitution’s Fifth and Tenth amendments.

But hey that whole Constitution thing only matters when you are talking about Democratic policies.

Right?

Update: So apparently this ruling did not even come from the ninth circuit:

Tuesday's ruling did not come from the 9th Circuit. It was made in federal district court in San Francisco.

Every day, a new reason to be embarrassed.

US general accuses Russia of providing weapons to the Taliban which were used against American backed forces.

Courtesy of Yahoo News:  

The United States must confront Russia for providing weapons to the Taliban for use against American-backed forces in Afghanistan, top U.S. military officials said Monday. 

At a news conference with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at his side, Gen. John Nicholson, the American commander in Afghanistan, wouldn't provide specifics about Russia's role in Afghanistan. But said he would "not refute" that Moscow's involvement includes giving weapons to the Taliban. 

Earlier Monday, a senior U.S. military official told reporters in Kabul that Russia was giving machine guns and other medium-weight weapons. The Taliban are using the weapons in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan, according to the official, who briefed journalists on intelligence information on condition of anonymity.

Well this is certainly going to put a strain on the Putin/Trump bromance.

Now not only are there various investigations into the Russian hacking of our election, but there are also these allegations that the Russians are providing weapons to our enemies.

Yep, Trump is never going to get his thirty pieces of silver from Putin if this keeps up.

Possibly the only positive outcome from the Trump presidency is an unprecedented number of new Democrats running for office.

Courtesy of Vice News:  

The 2018 midterms are still 561 days away, but an unprecedented early surge of Democrats have already declared their candidacies for the House of Representatives, setting up what will likely be one of the longest and most crowded series of House Democratic primary campaigns in memory. 

Already 408 Democrats have thrown their hats into the ring, a 58 percent increase over the 259 who had declared by this point in the run-up to the 2014 midterms. And several hundred more candidates are likely to join races across the country as the Democratic Party and multiple outside progressive groups recruit their own candidates. This tsunami of Democratic challengers will likely make it more difficult for President Donald Trump to pass his legislative agenda as members of Congress — Republicans and Democrats alike — will be wary of casting votes that provide ammo to progressive Democratic challengers. 

Contrary to fears among some liberals that the anti-Trump resistance movement would start and stop with marches and memes, the surge of energy and potential candidates is letting dispirited Democrats dare to believe they could win the 24 seats they need to reclaim the House majority for the first time since 2010. 

A spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC, or “D-trip” as it’s often called in Washington) told VICE News that the committee is in serious talks with more than 300 prospective candidates in about 70 Republican-held and open districts around the country. About 90 percent of those recruits, the DCCC said, have yet to file declarations of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.

Well as far as I am concerned this is perhaps the best news we could hope for at this point.

The Republicans have a very well funded political machine in place to find, train, and groom new politicians who they then run for everything from school boards, to city assemblies, to congressional seats in Washington.

Lately the Democrats have really struggled to keep up with that machine, and hopefully with Trump in the White House there will finally be the feeling of desperation needed to inspire hesitant Democrats to put their personal concerns aside and get into the game. 

Images of Trump leaving his wife in the dust sparks outrage on the internet.

Source
Of course the internet has been a buzz with all of this since the day they met with the Obamas.

Disrespectful POS.

But then, just for contrast, take look at how he boards Marine One with Ivanka.

It's like night and day.

Yeah I don't typically make too much out of this sort of thing, but something is really fucked up about all of this.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

With Bill O'Reilly out of the picture Rachel Maddow emerges as new juggernaut of cable news.

Courtesy of CNN: 

Fox News normally ranks #1 among cable news channels. But lately MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has been challenging Fox at 9 p.m., the centerpiece of the prime time schedule.

Maddow's surge is being fueled partly by her day-in, day-out criticism of the Trump administration. There is an increased appetite for the liberal arguments she has been making for years. 

"There's a reason Rachel is beating Fox and CNN," MSNBC president Phil Griffin told CNNMoney in an email. "She's a talented storyteller who's helping her audience cut through all the confusion coming out of Washington. She's connecting dots in ways no one else is.

"The week of April 10, for instance, Maddow just barely beat Carlson -- she averaged 542,000 viewers in the demo while he averaged 541,000. CNN ranked third with an average of 396,000 in the demo. 

Maddow's show has been MSNBC's tentpole, its highest rated program, for many years. The difference now is the competition with Fox News.

Maddow's increased popularity has even inspired one longtime Right Wing propagandist to become a little hyperbolic.
(Wait, we have flying cars now?)

 I have long suspected that there is something hinky about Fox's ability to dominate cable news, but so far there has never been any revelations about paying off TV ratings services or anything of that nature. (Though let's face it, we certainly would not put it past News Corp to do just that.)

There ARE a few theories out there: 

Fox news enjoys betters ratings precisely because it is "biased, selfish, manipulative & hate-filled". It is exciting stuff for the irrational or ignorant whom would like to be politically involved, but do not have the proper foundation of studies (Economics/Politics/Government/Finance/Law). Therefore, they can push an agenda without corresponding facts to suit the theories and behavior promoted. 

Sounds reasonable to me.

It should also be pointed out that the Fox News viewers are easily the MOST partisan group of cable news watchers out there, far more conservative than either CNN or MSNBC viewers are liberal.

And for years Fox News was their one stop shop to feed their confirmation bias.

On the other hand Rachel Maddow has an actual PHD and seems to be determined to follow the facts wherever they might lead her.

Her shows are incredibly informative, often containing history lessons, instruction about the way government works, and plenty of heretofore unknown trivia about both.

She also does not utilize tried and true Fox News methods such as inviting scantily clad blondes to discuss the news of the day, or yelling at her guests and calling them stupid when they have the temerity to disagree with her.

Instead she continues, day by day, to deliver the truth.

And in the era of Donald Trump the thirst for that truth has never been more deeply felt.

Representatives Cheffetz and Cummings give press conference shaming the White House for refusing to provide documents, and suggesting that Michael Flynn may have committed a felony.

Courtesy of Raw Story: 

Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) held a press conference on Tuesday to knock the Trump administration for denying their requests for documents related to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. 

“We received a response from the White House refusing to provide any of the documents we requested,” Cummings said at the press conference. “The White House has refused to offer a single piece of paper in response to this committee’s bipartisan request.” 

Cummings also said Flynn might have committed a felony by not disclosing payments he received from foreign governments before he assumed the role of national security adviser. 

“This is a major problem,” Cummings said.

I have to say I am a little surprised to see Chaffetz in front of the cameras talking about this.

I wonder if that means he wants to actually do his job before his quits it altogether?

Wow, when Jason Chaffetz complains that a Republican White House is obstructing an investigation, you KNOW the writing is on the wall.

While we are on the topic of Trump advisers and Russia let me share this tweet with you from the other day.
And once again the noose gets a little tighter.  

Former Fox News host claims that not only was she sexually harassed, but that her phone was hacked and the information used against her online.

Courtesy of NPR: 

The host, Andrea Tantaros, alleged in a previous lawsuit that she had been sexually harassed by former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and former top-rated Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. That suit has been stayed while her complaints against the network are being heard in binding private arbitration. All defendants, through their own representatives or through Fox's parent company, 21st Century Fox, vehemently denied Tantaros' initial allegations.

In Monday's federal lawsuit, Tantaros alleges that Fox News executives including co-President Bill Shine orchestrated the use of material gathered by electronic eavesdropping that was fed to Twitter accounts acting on the network's behalf. Ensuing tweets, she says, reflected knowledge of details of intimate conversations and exchanges with family members and friends. Tantaros alleges this was done to try to undermine her resolve in challenging the network on sexual harassment.

As you may know News Corp the parent company of Fox has a long and scandalous history of tapping people's phones.

According to the lawsuit Fox was fairly nasty in how they used the stolen information:

The suit alleges a rise in offensive material on social media accounts directed toward Tantaros in early 2015, when, she says, she first notified Shine and other Fox News executives that Ailes had harassed her. 

Then in May 2016, according to the complaint, several Twitter accounts started to post material suggesting direct knowledge of her conversations.

For example, a picture of a movie about a black scorpion was posted just after she learned that a friend had been bitten by one. Another tweet invoked the idea of a memorial for Tantaros' dead brother, just after she and her mother had spoken of it; the third anniversary of his death was still a few months away. 

And at the same time that Tantaros was talking to the children of her other brother while they were at Disneyland, according to the lawsuit, a tweet on one of the accounts posted a photograph of Mickey Mouse hugging two children. 

"This is not just cyberstalking," Tantaros' lawyer, Judd Burstein, told NPR. "This is cyberstalking on steroids, because, as alleged in the complaint, they harassed her through sock-puppet social media accounts which conveyed the illegal fruits of their electronic surveillance of her. It was in essence two crimes committed at the same time."

Certainly sounds like something Fox News would do, doesn't it. 

(Similar tactics were used against me back when I reported on the Palin marriage troubles. I was not hacked I don't think, but IM was scoured for dirt and then the information was misrepresented on various right wing news outlets in a way to impugn my character. So I have seen these tactics at work.)

If the lawyer for Tantaros can make these allegations stick, I see a big payout in their future.

Reports say that Donald Trump is "softening" on his demand for a border wall, however Twitter Trump disagrees with this.

Courtesy of WaPo: 

The White House sought Monday to calm a jittery Washington ahead of a showdown with Congress over spending, and President Trump softened his demand that a deal to keep the federal government open include money to begin construction on his long-promised border wall. 

Despite one-party control at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the brinkmanship that came to define spending battles in the Obama years has tumbled into the Trump era, as have the factional divisions over strategy and priorities that have gripped the GOP for a decade. 

But with a Friday deadline looming to pass a new spending bill, the Trump administration projected confidence that a shutdown would be avoided. In the face of fierce Democratic opposition to funding the wall’s construction, White House officials signaled Monday that the president may be open to an agreement that includes money for border security if not specifically for a wall, with an emphasis on technology and border agents rather than a structure. 

Trump showed even more flexibility Monday afternoon, telling conservative journalists in a private meeting that he was open to delaying funding for wall construction until September, a White House official confirmed.

OMGD right?

It suddenly appears that Trump is becoming more reasonable and recognizing that this border wall promise is a non-starter.

Now finally there can be a REAL and fruitful discussion over the need for an overhaul of our immigration policies.

Wait, not so fast.
And there you go.

Just when it appears that Donald Trump might start to be a little reasonable, that he might actually be learning what it takes to be the president, he sabotages it with some early morning tweet and we are all back at square one.

And this is essentially what happens time and time again.

Let's face it, the guy is unhinged.

And if you have any doubts about that just go back and read that AP interview again.  

I think the press needs to stop trying to shape a narrative that Trump is growing into his responsibilities and simply tell the truth to the American people.

The man is insane, and unless we can remove him from office we are doomed. 

Apparently Ivanka Trump has inspired a cult of Chinese admirers. Update!

Goddess Ivanka with her very first worshiper.
Courtesy of the Daily Mail: 

Her father's brand may be struggling for popularity in the US, but Ivanka Trump is cultivating a cult following in China. 

An online fan club on the website Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, even refers to the president's daughter as 'Goddess Ivanka'. 

NBC News reports the page with the same title has about 12,000 followers, many of whom are effusive in their praise for the 35-year-old. 

Hu Xingdou, a Beijing professor, told the network much of Ivanka Trump's popularity comes from people thinking she is supportive of China. 

'Most people in China love Ivanka because of her friendly gestures towards the Chinese people,' Xingdou said. 

'Ivanka is an important bridge during this period of uncertainties in China-US relations.' 

Seriously?

I swear that Trump has people so freaked out that they will cling to any possibility that somebody can rein him in.

However as John Oliver pointed out over the weekend, it is unlikely that Ivanka is that person.
Yeah let's face it the only thing that can rein Donald Trump in is a conviction for treason and some much needed prison time.

Hopefully that is what looms in his future.

Update: Apparently the Germans are not quite as gullible as the Chinese.

This is what happened when Ivanka attempted to defend her father during a  W20 conference in Germany.
Well that seems like a more rational response to Trump's little apologist.

Almost three quarters of Americans want an independent investigation into Russia's hacking of our election, and not some totally untrustworthy congressional investigation.

Courtesy of NBC News: 

Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they want an independent, non-partisan commission instead of Congress to investigate Russia's involvement in the 2016 election, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. 

Seventy-three percent of respondents prefer the independent investigation, versus 16 percent who pick Congress. 

That seems totally obvious and I am sure that most of you are on board with this as well.

But then we have this:

Still, a majority of Americans — 54 percent — believe that Congress should investigate whether there was contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, which is essentially unchanged from February's NBC/WSJ poll.

What the what?

That makes no fucking sense to me.

To me it actually makes MORE sense for there to be an independent investigation into possible Trump campaign ties to the Russian, than an independent investigation into the meddling with the election. Though to be honest I don't really see why the two investigations should even be conducted separately.

This poll comes on the heels of a report that the Senate Intelligence Committee's Russian probe (And these are supposedly the good guys who DON'T have a Devin Nunes.) is shamefully understaffed: 

Three months into the committee’s investigation, there are no staff members dedicated to it full-time, those working on it do not have backgrounds in investigative experience and no interviews have been conducted with key players, The Daily Beast added. 

It appears to be progressing at a slower pace than other committee investigations, it added. 

Two sources familiar with the matter told the site that the committee has not interviewed former national security adviser Michael Flynn; Roger Stone and Carter Page, two advisers during Donald Trump's presidential campaign; former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort; and White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is also Trump's son-in-law. “It’s either a real investigation or not,” an individual with knowledge of the committee’s activities said. “You have to have an approved investigative guide. You have to make it formal. 

"Can you have a credible investigation with only seven part-time staffers, doing everything in secret?”

So yeah, I'm thinking that the entire investigation should be handed over to an independent commission tasked simply with finding the truth no matter where it leads, and without all of that "Oh God I can't destroy my party's President" BS to gum up the works.

In case you were still wondering how the polls could have been so wrong about the outcome of the election.

The polls and the pundits didn't get it wrong, they were just unprepared for the FBI to alter the trajectory of the election.

This is why I can never give Comey that pass.