Thursday, December 6, 2018

After You’ve Gone

Just checking to see how we’re doing, fiscally responsible-wise:

Since the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s aides and advisers have tried to convince him of the importance of tackling the national debt.

Sources close to the president say he has repeatedly shrugged it off, implying that he doesn’t have to worry about the money owed to America’s creditors—currently about $21 trillion—because he won’t be around to shoulder the blame when it becomes even more untenable.

The friction came to a head in early 2017 when senior officials offered Trump charts and graphics laying out the numbers and showing a “hockey stick” spike in the national debt in the not-too-distant future. In response, Trump noted that the data suggested the debt would reach a critical mass only after his possible second term in office.

“Yeah, but I won’t be here,” the president bluntly said, according to a source who was in the room when Trump made this comment during discussions on the debt.

History has shown that this is standard operating procedure for the Republicans: explode the deficits by cutting taxes and then leave it for the Democrats to clean it up all the while blaming them for getting them into this mess in the first place.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

How It Affects Him

Notice that Trump’s response to the news that GM is closing plants and laying off nearly 15,000 workers at all levels is as if it’s an attack on him?

Before leaving the White House Monday for a campaign rally in Mississippi, the president told reporters he had complained to GM chief executive Mary Barra about the shutdowns.

“I was very tough,” the president said. “I spoke with her when I heard they were closing. And I said: ‘You know, this country has done a lot for General Motors. You better get back in there soon. That’s Ohio, and you better get back in there soon.’ ”

Because Ohio has all those electoral votes and GM is doing this just to mess with his reelection.

It’s not like he cares about the people losing their jobs or cities like Lordstown being stuck with an empty plant and turned into another Flint; it’s all about him.  That’s all that matters.

Monday, November 26, 2018

GM Cutting 14,000 Jobs

Trump told us as recently as a week ago that car companies were opening new plants all across the country.

Maybe they are, but today General Motors announced that they’re closing three assembly plants in North America and cutting 14,000 jobs.  That includes the plant in Oshawa, Ontario, where my 1988 Pontiac 6000 station wagon was built in February 1988.

Changes in the auto industry are nothing new, and it’s less than ten years since GM went through bankruptcy and made some very big cuts, including dropping four North American brands, including Pontiac.  (Now it’s an orphan twice over.)  That’s the way things go in capitalism.

But now Trump has been telling everyone that the American auto industry is booming, plants are opening, jobs are being created, and he’s taking all the credit, of course.

Well, now, who’s he going to blame when the plants close, people lose their jobs, and the ripple effect rattles through the towns and cities that depended on the car plant to keep the grocery stores and the schools open?

He’ll find a way to blame Obama.  Or Hillary.  Or Robert Mueller.  Count on it.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday

I’m all in favor of capitalism and patronizing local businesses, so if spending money for Christmas is what you want to do, go forth, drive carefully, bundle up (if it’s cold), and remember where you parked.

Me, I’m staying home, doing some writing and reflection, and enjoying a four-day weekend.

Last year at this time the vanda orchid was in full bloom.  I haven’t checked recently, but it looked like it was getting ready to do it again.

“Chili pepper” vanda (from the last time it bloomed)

You kids have fun out there.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What Have They Got On Him?

The Washington Post:

Trump offered embattled Saudi Arabia a suggestion of support Tuesday amid mounting pressure over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying the kingdom is being judged “guilty until proven innocent.”

The remarks, in an interview with the Associated Press, put Trump widely out of step with many world leaders amid Turkish assertions that Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi hit team this month after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

They also could complicate talks planned Wednesday between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish leaders on the Khashoggi case.

“Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Trump told the AP, comparing the situation to allegations of sexual assault leveled against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.

He’s basically said the same thing about Russia in similar situations: Hey, don’t judge before all the facts are in.

A noble sentiment indeed were it not for the fact that A) neither Saudi Arabia nor Russia work from the idea of a presumption of innocence, and B) Trump himself has been known to jump to the “guilty until proven innocent” side — “Lock Her Up!” sound familiar?

Trump has also noted that both Saudi Arabia and Russia will be buying “billions of dollars” worth of stuff from us — it’s all about the jobs, right? — and we can’t risk losing all that money.  There’s a name for that, but it usually involves a pimp and a hotel with hourly rates.

For all that, it makes you wonder just what kind of hold Saudi Arabia and Russia have on Trump beyond the lure of money.  What do they have on him that is so devastating that he’d sell out his own country to keep dictators and autocrats both happy and silent?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tax Free

According to the New York Times, Jared Kushner hasn’t paid federal income taxes for years.

That may outrage normal people, but to the Trump base, the MAGA crowd, and the rich-beyond-sanity club, they see that as a feature and want to get in on it.

Of course when the deficit shoots through the stratosphere and there are cuts to programs that might affect them, such as infrastructure (states rely on getting funds from the federal government to rebuild bridges and schools), they’ll complain about red tape and waste and fraud and abuse by bureaucrats.

And of course they say everyone should pay their fair share.  Just not them.  Or anyone like them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Filthy Rich

We knew the “self-made billionaire” line was bullshit, and now the New York Times has the background to prove that Trump’s wealth was accumulated by inheriting it from his tax-cheating and law-breaking father.

Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

These maneuvers met with little resistance from the Internal Revenue Service, The Times found. The president’s parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 55 percent tax rate then imposed on gifts and inheritances.

The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show.

No wonder he never wanted to release his taxes.  Not that we’d find out that his family was ripping off the government — that’s everyone’s secret dream — but that he didn’t do a damn thing to earn his money and just sat there and let it roll in.

So what if he lived off Fred’s money?  Lots of presidents have been set for life from the time they were born, including FDR, JFK, and the Bushes, just to name a few.  It never seemed to bother them that they were to the manor born.  The big difference, though, between Trump and the rest of the rich is that he wants everyone to think he did it all by himself.  The rags-to-riches story, or so the thinking must go, is that it’s somehow more “‘Murican” if you started out with nothing — just a million or so inherited from daddy — and through hard work and smart deals you made your fortune.  But with his fragile ego — and the rest of it — he just had to live a lie and make up all this bullshit so he’ll seem more genuine to the base.

We all knew he was a con.  Now we have the proof.  The sad thing is that the base — the ones he tried to con — will think he’s some kind of hero for ripping off the guvamint.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

That Won’t Be The Worst Of It

There is nothing to stop Hurricane Florence — or any other storm, for that matter — so the best we can do is be fully prepared and safe.  What happens after, however, is completely in our hands and those of the people we’ve chosen to run things, and that’s where the real disaster can happen.

Given the current administration’s down-is-up view of how they handled things with Hurricane Maria and the fact that there’s a runway full of bottled water in Puerto Rico waiting to be distributed a year later, the people who will be impacted by Hurricane Florence had better know that they are in for a long and strenuous struggle when the winds and rains have ended.  It will be just the start.

Meanwhile, the money set aside for FEMA has been rerouted to ICE because brown people seeking asylum are a much larger danger to America than a Category 3 hurricane.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration took nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s budget this summer to help boost U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to budget documents shared with USA TODAY.

The revelation, just ahead of Hurricane Florence’s expected landfall in North and South Carolina, was found by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who first shared the documents live on MSNBC late Tuesday.

He told USA TODAY that after the devastation of last year’s storms, including hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma, FEMA should have the funds it needs to be prepared for another disastrous hurricane season.

“It’s almost guaranteed to happen again, so this is just incredibly irresponsible,” Merkley said.

The budgeting document, titled “Department of Homeland Security FY 2018 transfer and reprogramming notifications,” lists $9,755,303 taken from FEMA’s budget, about .9 percent of the agency’s listed overall budget, and given to support ICE.

Heckuva job, there.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Labor Day

Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times

Having grown up in a union town that was near a large city that relied on union labor, I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the people who most hate unions are folks who think that it is unconscionable that workers should have the same rights as the managers and the owners of the company. How dare they demand a living wage and safe working conditions. Who do they think they are?

Yeah, yeah; in every large group there are bad apples and examples of bad faith and extremism. Welcome to the human race. The Republicans hold the unions up as the boogeyman of the Western world and label them as thugs… and give tax breaks to the corporations because they know that if they don’t, the corporations will kneecap them. Not literally; they’ll just stop giving them money, which, in corporate circles, is thuggery. The people who whine about “class warfare” always turn out to be the ones who are winning the war.

Perhaps one of the reasons that union membership is down is that unions have accomplished a lot of what they set out to do 100 years ago. Factories are safer, working hours are reasonable, wages are better than the minimum, and pensions provide some security. The unions have learned, however awkwardly, to accept that they have been successful, but they also know that if some people had their way in the world, they would turn back to clock to 1911, put children to work, take away the healthcare, and demand more production. After all, it works for the Chinese, and look how they’re doing.

By the way, not all union workers are Democrats; they certainly weren’t were I grew up. A lot of them are hardcore Republicans or conservatives — including police officers — who don’t care about the politics; they just want to be treated fairly. And a lot of people who are not union members are working under union contracts; in most places there is no requirement to join a union to benefit from their efforts. So while actual union membership may be down to 15%, the number of people who are part of the union is far greater. That includes public sector jobs as well as private. So the next time someone feels the urge to union-bash, be sure you’re not peeing in your own campfire.

Full disclosure: I am a dues-paying member of a union of sorts; I belong to the Dramatists Guild. It provides services for writers and lyricists and makes sure that when our works are produced, we have a fair contract and get paid our royalties. The joke among us is that we don’t go on strike; we just get writers’ block.

[Originally posted September 2, 2013]

Friday, August 31, 2018

Nuts ‘n’ Bolts: You Got Screwed

This doesn’t surprise me in the least.

Trump told lawmakers on Thursday he wants to scrap a pay raise for civilian federal workers, saying the nation’s budget couldn’t support it.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders, Trump described the pay increase as “inappropriate.”

“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” the President wrote.

An across-the-board 2.1% pay increase for federal workers was slated to take effect in January. In addition, a yearly adjustment of paychecks based on the region of the country where a worker is posted — the “locality pay increase” — was due to take effect.

Trump said both increases should no longer happen.

That’s because they gave it all to the rich people with the montrous deficit-inducing tax cut.  The rich got the tax cut and the rest of us — including people who make the government run — got screwed.

I wonder how many of those federal employees voted for Trump.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

One More Day

Someone got one of my credit card numbers and tried to buy something at a Citgo station in Houston on August 21 — and was declined — but the bank didn’t let me know until I tried to buy gas yesterday.  I spent a total of 45 minutes of listening to “your call is very important to us…” before I got through.

Long story short version: I need to go to my local branch and get a temporary card until they issue a new one (4-6 business days) and then change all the accounts where the card is already set up as the form of payment.

So I’m taking another day off.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

To No One’s Surprise

The rich get richer.

The Trump administration is considering bypassing Congress to grant a $100 billion tax cut mainly to the wealthy, a legally tenuous maneuver that would cut capital gains taxation and fulfill a long-held ambition of many investors and conservatives.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said in an interview on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Argentina this month that his department was studying whether it could use its regulatory powers to allow Americans to account for inflation in determining capital gains tax liabilities. The Treasury Department could change the definition of “cost” for calculating capital gains, allowing taxpayers to adjust the initial value of an asset, such as a home or a share of stock, for inflation when it sells.

“If it can’t get done through a legislation process, we will look at what tools at Treasury we have to do it on our own and we’ll consider that,” Mr. Mnuchin said, emphasizing that he had not concluded whether the Treasury Department had the authority to act alone. “We are studying that internally, and we are also studying the economic costs and the impact on growth.”

Currently, capital gains taxes are determined by subtracting the original price of an asset from the price at which it was sold and taxing the difference, usually at 20 percent. If a high earner spent $100,000 on stock in 1980, then sold it for $1 million today, she would owe taxes on $900,000. But if her original purchase price was adjusted for inflation, it would be about $300,000, reducing her taxable “gain” to $700,000. That would save the investor $40,000.

The move would face a near-certain court challenge. It could also reinforce a liberal critique of Republican tax policy at a time when Republicans are struggling to sell middle-class voters on the benefits of the tax cuts that President Trump signed into law late last year.

“At a time when the deficit is out of control, wages are flat and the wealthiest are doing better than ever, to give the top 1 percent another advantage is an outrage and shows the Republicans’ true colors,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “Furthermore, Mr. Mnuchin thinks he can do it on his own, but everyone knows this must be done by legislation.”

They want to get it to the point where they don’t have to pay any taxes at all.  And if it balloons the deficit, well, so what?  They only worry about that — or say they worry about that — when a Democrat is in the White House.  Then it’s the worst thing in the world and all the poor people must pay to bring it down because that’s what the poor people do.

Either that or Trump owes a huge payment to Putin and this is the only way to get the dough to make it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

$12 Billion Solution

Trump is telling the agricultural community that he’s authorizing the Department of Agriculture to release $12 billion in emergency funds to make up for the losses caused by the tariffs he’s imposed on countries that import our agricultural products.

In other words, the arsonist is showing up in time to help the firefighters put out the blaze that he started.

And I’m sure that all the hard-core conservatives in Congress who believe that government hand-outs are the worst thing in the world and a slippery slope to socialism and state-run collectivism will rise up as one and proclaim that the free market is the American way and if the farmers can’t cut it, well, that’s a tough row to hoe.  Yeah, right.  It’ll be interesting to see how many of them who support this bail-out were totally against President Obama’s help to the automobile industry.

This is a $12 billion solution to a political problem.  The tariffs are hitting the people who who voted for Trump in the first place and he’s out to protect not them but himself.  After all, as we’ve seen — and heard on tape — Trump is always willing to pay someone off to get himself out of a mess that he caused.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Personal Piggybank

The New York attorney general has filed suit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, alleging, among other things, that he and his family used it to pay for everything from redecorating a resort to paying for presidential campaign events.

In the suit, Attorney General Barbara Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation. She asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities and that Trump be forced to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties.

Underwood also asked that Trump be banned from leading any other New York nonprofit organization for 10 years — seeking to apply a penalty usually reserved for the operators of small-time charity frauds to the president of the United States.

[…]

Although Donald Trump’s name is on the foundation, in recent years most of its money was not actually his. Trump did not donate any money to the foundation between 2008 and 2015. Instead, its largest benefactors in recent years have been wrestling moguls Vince and Linda McMahon, who gave $5 million total in 2007 and 2009. Linda McMahon was later appointed by Trump to be head of the Small Business Administration.

Behind the scenes, Underwood said, the foundation was essentially one of Trump’s personal piggy banks — a pool of money that his accounting clerks knew to use whenever Trump wanted to pay a nonprofit organization. By law, Trump wasn’t allowed to buy things for himself using the charity’s money, even if he was buying them from nonprofit groups.

Trump could have avoided all this trouble and been shielded from the regulators if he had set himself up as a megachurch.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Steel Away

This should go over well in certain places.

Trump wants to impose a total ban on the imports of German luxury cars, according to a new report from CNBC and German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.

Several U.S. and European diplomats told the news outlets that Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron about his plans last month during a state visit.

Trump reportedly told Macron that he would maintain the ban until no Mercedes-Benz cars are seen on Fifth Avenue in New York.

Shares of Daimler, Porsche and Volkswagen were lower on Thursday, shortly after the weekly German business magazine published the report.

Calling these automobiles “imports” is a bit of a misnomer.  While they may have corporate headquarters in Germany, the cars you see on Fifth Avenue in New York are assembled in places like Alabama and South Carolina.  I think the people who put the cars together there vote, too, as well as the people who buy them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Sit Anywhere You Like

One of the upshots of Starbucks’ consciousness-raising over who gets to sit in their coffee houses without drawing the attention of the constabulary is that they will make it their official policy that you don’t actually have to buy something to earn a place to sit there.

That’s good to know; I’ve been doing it for years (although I usually do buy something; after all, those blueberry scones are pretty good), and the local Starbucks was my go-to place for WiFi last September after Hurricane Irma, free or otherwise.  Now I won’t have that tickling feeling of guilt when I stop in and boot up without buying a scone or a tall plain cuppajoe.

But that’s upsetting to some conservatives.  Megyn Kelly, for instance.

“They’re allowing anyone to stay and use the bathroom even if they don’t buy anything, which has a lot of Starbucks’ customers saying, ‘Really?’” Kelly remarked on her Today Show program. “Because now the Starbucks are going to get overwhelmed with people and is it really just a public space or is it not?”

“For the paying customers who go in with their kids, do you really want to deal with a mass of homeless people or whoever is in there — could be drug addicted, you don’t know when you’re there with your kids paying for the services of the place.”

For those of you who are numb to dog whistles, what she’s really saying is that Starbucks is now the equivalent of the Port Authority bus terminal and their bathrooms are open to just anyone, not just rich white people paying five bucks for a latte.  Oh, how we’ve all caved to political correctness and now she has to sit next to someone who is undeserving of being in her presence.

Or maybe she’d rather see what I saw yesterday morning when I got to the office before dawn.  It’s located in downtown Miami and there are a number of homeless people who spend the night in sheltered areas until the building opens.  As I approached the entrance, I saw a man standing outside on the wheelchair ramp where he’d spent the night.  From his stance and the fact that I’m a man who knows what a certain stance means, I knew he was taking a leak against the side of our building.  As I got near the door, he tried to mop it up with the newspapers he’d just used as his bed.  I didn’t say anything to him, but I did inform the security guard who was arriving of what I’d seen so they could get someone to hose the ramp down.  I didn’t call the cops, and if the man had asked, I’m pretty sure the guard would have let him in to use the rest room on the first floor instead of peeing on the ramp.

I’ve often said it would be nice if there was a Starbucks in the neighborhood, and there’s another reason now; to show a little bit of kindness and accommodation to people who don’t have multi-million dollar contracts to sneer at others on TV.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Short Takes

Oklahoma teachers continue their march to the state capital.

Pruitt under pressure: EPA chief’s problems keep growing.

Yeah right: Trump says he was unaware of payment to Stormy Daniels.

Cyclist fired for flipping off Trump sues her former employer.

New Russia sanctions go after oligarchs.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Monday, April 2, 2018

Friday, March 23, 2018