Archive

January 18th, 2017

The best president Putin could buy

    There's no doubt about it. Even Donald Trump now admits it. The Russian government, under direct orders from Vladimir Putin, interfered in the 2016 presidential election in order to help Donald Trump win -- and succeeded in their goal.

    Read that paragraph again. This is nothing short of an act of war. And the only thing more shocking than the fact that Russia did, indeed, hack our election is the reaction of President-elect Donald Trump, whose response to the most serious case of cyberwarfare in our history is a blase "So what?"

    For weeks, Trump simply denied Russia's role in the hacking of the DNC and Clinton campaign. We don't know it was Russia, he insisted. It could have been China. Or just "some guy in New Jersey." But whoever did it, said Trump, it was nothing but a "political witch hunt," hatched by Democrats in order to undermine the legitimacy of his victory on Nov. 8.

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January 17th

Republicans will find corporate tax reform is hard

    Legislating can be so much more challenging that it seems during an election campaign. That's becoming increasingly clear about Republican promises to repeal and replace Obamacare. And it's about to become clearer on corporate tax reform.

    Tax reform is a relatively easy concept: Most people favor lowering the tax rate and closing loopholes. The difficulty is in the details.

    Consider the proposal now before the House of Representatives. It includes a reduction in the corporate tax rate; a one-time lower tax on profits accumulated abroad; an end to the tax deductibility of interest expense, coupled with immediate expensing of investments; and a border-adjustment system that would impose the corporate tax on imports but not exports.

    The plan has several potentially desirable attributes. It would, for example, effectively eliminate the incentive for companies to shift profits abroad. However, the plan as a whole also has little chance of being enacted into law. Here's why not.

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Milton Friedman's Cherished Theory Is Laid to Rest

    When you're wrong, you're wrong, no matter how famous and respected you might be as a scientist. Albert Einstein was wrong about quantum mechanics. Linus Pauling was wrong about the structure of DNA. And Milton Friedman was wrong about the permanent income hypothesis. But unlike with the first two examples, where scientists quickly realized the mistake, economists haven't yet come to grips with the reality.

    Friedman's theory says that people's consumption isn't affected by how much they earn day-to-day. Instead, what they care about is how much they expect to earn during a lifetime. If they have a sudden, temporary loss of income -- a spell of unemployment, for example -- they borrow money to ride out the dip. If they get a windfall, like a government stimulus check, they stick it in the bank for a rainy day rather than use it to boost consumption. Only if people believe that their future earning power has changed do they respond by adjusting how much they spend.

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Human Rights Watch director: We are on the verge of darkness

    The global rise of populists poses a dangerous threat to human rights - which exist to protect people from governments. Yet today, a new generation of populists is reversing that role. Claiming to speak for "the people," they treat rights as an impediment to their conception of the majority will, a needless obstacle to defending the nation from perceived threats and evils. Instead of accepting that rights protect everyone, they encourage people to adopt the dangerous belief that they will never need their rights against an overreaching government claiming to act in their name.

    The appeal of the populists has grown with mounting public discontent over the status quo. In the West, many people feel left behind by technological change, the global economy, and growing inequality. Terrorism sows apprehension and fear. Some are uneasy with societies that have become more ethnically, religiously, and racially diverse. There is an increasing sense that governments and the elite ignore public concerns.

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Donald Trump’s Medical Delusions

    Thanks, Comey.

    The Justice Department’s inspector general is now investigating the way the FBI director conveyed the false impression of an emerging Clinton scandal just days before the election, even as he said nothing about ongoing investigations into Russian intervention and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. That action very probably installed Donald Trump in the White House. And it’s already obvious that the incoming commander in chief will be a walking, tweeting ethical disaster.

    On the other hand, he’s also dangerously delusional about policy.

    Some Republicans appear to be realizing that their long con on Obamacare has reached its limit. Chanting “repeal and replace” may have worked as a political strategy, but coming up with a conservative replacement for the Affordable Care Act — one that doesn’t take away coverage from tens of millions of Americans — isn’t easy. In fact, it’s impossible.

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Donald Trump hasn't solved any of his conflicts of interest

    There is a good reason that the Justice Department has always taken the position that presidents should abide by the provisions of the Ethics in Government Act, even though they are exempted from it for constitutional reasons: Doing that saves the president and his administration a lot of potential troubles.

    But President-elect Donald Trump's announcement Wednesday that he will retain full personal ownership of the Trump Organization's hundreds of companies and worldwide business interests, while setting up a structure for his children and trusted executives to manage the organization, invites just the sort of trouble the law is designed to avoid.

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Did We Vote Our Own Demise?

    After each election there is always disappointment on the side that did not prevail, but the fall 2016 election brought much more serious concern. Every day seems to bring more evidence of how unqualified the man - slated to be sworn as the leader of the free world in a few days - is.

    Perhaps most frightening of all is the coterie of people surrounding him. That people who were supposed to have the interest of the nation at heart have demonstrated a willingness to sell out to this person who appears sorrowfully lacking in morals or intellect. It isn't the lack of experience that scares us so. One can always turn to others for advice. A lack of intellect can even be overcome if one recognizes her/his lack. However, there is no compensation whatsoever for a void in morals, especially when the void is total.

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Donald Trump and his sons will never talk business again

    Donald Trump has been blessed with two tall and healthy adult sons who have slain numerous wild beasts using only sticks that spit fire. They are married to human women, and their hair is sleek and glossy like the back of a marmot. They possess the right number of teeth. Donald Trump loves to speak to them and give them his counsel, and the one great tragedy of his upcoming presidency is that he will no longer be able to talk business with them. How can he? They will be managing the Trump Organization in trust, and he has vowed not to know anything about its deals and doings until he reads about it in the newspaper - or, to be realistic, sees it on TV. Taking him at his word, here is what the next year will look like.

    WINTER: Donald Trump, Eric and Don Jr. sit around the dinner table. "So," Trump says. "How are things?"

    Eric glances nervously at his brother. "Things?"

    "Not business things, obviously," Trump corrects, glancing down the table at the ethics adviser who has been following them around since this began. "You things."

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Vipers of the Echo Chamber

    “Indy, why does the floor move?”

    “Hand me the torch.”

    In “Raiders of the Lost Arc,” Indiana Jones deals with a cavernous well filled with snakes, and with flame as his only ally.

    That scene comes to mind as the 115th Congress coils itself to strike at things that help a lot of Americans.

    Congressional Republicans have designs that have fermented in darkened catacombs for decades. Almost every idea would harm those who need help and help those who don’t.

    In President Trump they see their signal to strike with velocity and ferocity.

    Ah, an opening for those who have resided so comfortably in their Fox News/Breitbart echo chamber, their seats gerrymandered out of the reach of actual democracy.

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Advice for Women's March participants: Less pink, more grit

    Please, sisters, back away from the pink.

    Pink pussycat hats, sparkly signs, color-coordinated street theater - all of it is gleefully in the works for the upcoming Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21.

    And that scares me a little. Because all of this well-intentioned, she-power frippery can make this thing more Lilith Fair than Lilly Ledbetter. And the Women's March of 2017 will be remembered as an unruly river of Pepto-Bismol roiling through the streets of the capital rather than a long overdue civil rights march.

    This is serious stuff.

    It's about human rights. It's about the way 51 percent of our nation's population still gets less pay, less representation in elected office and in corporate corner offices, less access to health care, less safety and less respect that the other 49 percent of our deeply divided nation.

    The Women's March needs grit, not gimmicks.

    Case in point?

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