Lazy Saturday Reads: Winter Is Coming

Snow falling in the lane, by Edvard Munch, 1906

Good Morning!!

So . . . it looks like the GOP tax scam has enough votes to pass the Senate next week now that Bob Corker and Marco Rubio have predictably flip flopped. You have to wonder why the Republicans are going forward with this monstrosity, since it will likely result in a Democratic wave election in 2018. Maybe they figure that’s going to happen anyway so they might as well give themselves tax cuts for when they are forced into retirement. Of course they’ll get their government pensions too.

Lawrence O’Donnell said last night that Corker’s decision was obviously based on his political ambitions. He hopes to replace Tillerson as Secretary of State and of course he’s fantasizing about running for president in either 2020 or 2024. Marco Rubio will also be running, of course. These two know they’d never be able to do that if they cross their billionaire donors on tax cuts.

The Washington Post: Why Republicans shouldn’t be so optimistic their tax bill will be a big win.

Republicans are on the verge of passing a massive tax cut for businesses that is deeply unpopular with the American public. They are doing it with no Democratic votes and at a moment when the U.S. economy looks pretty healthy (typically, tax cuts are most effective when the economy is struggling and the government wants to revive it). A surprising number of chief executives admit their top plan for the extra cash is to pay shareholders more, not grow jobs and wages. Billionaire chief executive Michael Bloomberg went so far as to declare the bill a “trillion-dollar blunder.”

So all of this begs the obvious question: Why are Republicans doing this?

Ivan Shishkin, “In the Wild North,” 1891

Supposedly it’s about politics. If they don’t get something done before the end of the year, and they claim their voters want these destructive tax cuts.

Getting a tax cut done shows the GOP is doing something, particularly on an issue — tax cuts — that has been at the core of Republican orthodoxy since the Reagan era. The surprise victory of Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama also means Republicans could have an even harder time passing a bill like this next year.

But pursuing legislation that most of the country doesn’t like is still very risky. Poll after poll shows only about a third of Americans think it’s a good idea. The vast majority feel it’s heavily skewed to the rich and big businesses.

Yet Republicans are optimistic. Why?  Perhaps because most Americans are getting a tax cut under this plan, and if growth gets even hotter and unemployment gets even lower by Election Day, voters could reward the GOP.

I don’t think it’s going to work, but I guess we’re going to find out. Of course their other goal is to create massive enough deficits that they can claim they need to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; and they’re definitely going to get those deficits.

The tax cut bill will cause problems for lots of people, but we’ll have to wait for the experts to read the more than 1,000 page mess and analyze it detail. But it looks like the Republicans decided to take this opportunity to make things worse for Puerto Rico.

Bloomberg: Puerto Rico to Lose Tax Advantages Under GOP Plan, Expert Says.

The final version of the Republican tax plan would end some of the tax advantages companies with operations in Puerto Rico have long enjoyed, potentially delivering an economic blow to the territory still reeling from Hurricane Maria and a record setting bankruptcy, according to an expert who reviewed the plan Friday.

Gabriel Hernandez, the head of the tax division at BDO Puerto Rico, said that under the new rules subsidiaries of U.S. companies based on the island would be treated as foreign, subject to a tax from income derived from intangible assets held offshore. Although the final plan did not include the House’s proposed 20 percent excise tax, as many local officials feared, it still likely signaled sweeping changes for the commonwealth’s economy, he said.

Caspar David Friedrich, “Winter Landscape with church,” 1811

“All planning related to Puerto Rico essentially has changed,” Hernandez said in a telephone interview Friday evening. “It’s so complicated, it’s not even funny. And I’m a tax guy.”

The treatment of Puerto Rico as a foreign jurisdiction undercuts the central platform of Governor Ricardo Rossello, who lobbied against that status this week in Washington. Rossello wants Puerto Rico to become a state — the consideration of the island as foreign runs counter to his party’s main policy.

Hernandez, who has been a Puerto Rico tax expert for more than 25 years, said the plan released Friday seemed like deja vu for the embattled territory. In the nineties, Congress voted to end certain tax incentives then enjoyed by pharmaceutical and other companies with Puerto Rican manufacturing plants. When the rules lapsed completely in 2006, the island entered its years-long recession that culminated ultimately in its record-setting bankruptcy earlier this year. He said the changes released today could be as dramatic.

Read more details at the link.

The Washington Post has a piece about Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames and the years they worked as publishers/journalists in Russia. It’s about time someone in the mainstream media called attention to these two and their ugly history of sexually harassing and abusing women.

The two expat bros who terrorized women correspondents in Moscow, by Kathy Lally

There’s more than one way to harass women. A raft of men in recent weeks have paid for accusations of sexual harassment with their companies, their jobs, their plum political posts. But one point has been overlooked in the scandals: Men can be belittling, cruel and deeply damaging without demanding sex. (Try sloughing off heaps of contempt with your self-esteem intact.) We have no consensus — and hardly any discussion — about how we should treat behaviors that are misogynist and bullying but fall short of breaking the law.

Twenty years ago, when I was a Moscow correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, two Americans named Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames ran an English-language tabloid in the Russian capital called the eXile. They portrayed themselves as swashbuckling parodists, unbound by the conventions of mainstream journalism, exposing Westerners who were cynically profiting from the chaos of post-Soviet Russia.

Vincent Van Gogh, Landscape in the snow

A better description is this: The eXile was juvenile, stunt-obsessed and pornographic, titillating for high school boys. It is back in the news because Taibbi just wrote a new book, and interviewers are asking him why he and Ames acted so boorishly back then. The eXile’s distinguishing feature, more than anything else, was its blinding sexism — which often targeted me….

I remember the eXile as a mishmash of nightclub listings (rated on how easily a man could get sex), articles on lurid escapades (sex with a 15-year-old girl, an account Ames now says was a joke), political pieces (“Why Our Military Shopping Spree Has Russia Pissed Off”) and press reviews savaging mainstream Western journalists. It ridiculed one female reporter as a “star spinster columnist” and mentioned women’s “anger lines” and fat ankles. The paper even had a cartoon called the Fat Ankle News , about a woman who tweezes her nose hairs and gorges on doughnuts while editing a story. Some male reporters came in for scorn as toadies or morons or liars. But their outrages concerned their minds and not their bodies.

Please read the whole thing. I hope this high-profile exposure of Taibbi and Ames will get plenty of reaction. I’d love to see Taibbi go down in flames, although he’ll probably survive somehow.

You probably heard about this one already, but it’s too horrible not to include.

The Washington Post: CDC gets list of forbidden words: fetus, transgender, diversity.

The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

Road to Versailles at Louveciennes, 1869, Camille_Pissarro

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

I just watched an interview Trump ghostwriter Tony Schwartz on Joy Reid’s show. Schwartz is convinced that Trump is working up to establishing a police state in the U.S. He argues that Trump’s attacks on the FBI and the Department of Justice are part of his plan to establish a private military run by Blackwater founder Erik Prince.

I don’t want to go off the deep end with this kind of speculation, but I am fearful of the way things seem to be going and the lack of GOP opposition to anything Trump does. The only hope he have is the Mueller investigation, and Republicans are actively attacking Mueller and his team in Congress and on Trump TV AKA Fox News. Even John Cornyn, the number 2 guy in the Senate suggested on Twitter yesterday that Mueller should be fired. Check out his timeline.

I hate to end on a negative note, but I’ve got a knot in my stomach after listening to Tony Schwartz, and I can’t focus on anymore scary news this morning.

What stories are you following?



35 Comments on “Lazy Saturday Reads: Winter Is Coming”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a good weekend everyone. Next week could be very bad. Here’s hoping for more indictments from Mueller and company.

  2. Fannie says:

    Thanks BB. You have a nice weekend. Wanted to say the CDC story is flying like hot cakes all over the world. It’s number one topic. I expect if Mueller is fired, Trump will have all us tattooed with red sickle on our foreheads.

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

    WaPo: How the oldest Senate ever is taking a toll on the business of Washington

    Back in November, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, who is 83, was at the helm when the Senate’s massive tax bill came through the Finance Committee. But Hatch also deputized four younger Republicans on the panel to serve as de facto co-chairmen over various parts of the legislation.

    This week, with a compromise bill marching toward final passage in both chambers, the House will take the unusual step of voting first — because a pair of senators, Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), are recuperating from, respectively, non-melanoma skin surgery and the side effects of cancer treatments.

    Hatch’s advisers say his move demonstrates a keen sense of coalition building, and aides and friends to both Cochran, 80, and McCain, 81, contend that their bosses should be back in the Senate before long.

    But here’s something else to consider: All three are exemplars of an institution that has become, by one measure, the oldest Senate ever — where eight octogenarians currently serve, nearly twice as many as ever before, according to records maintained by the Senate Historical Office. Another handful of senators are at least 75, poised to join those ranks soon.

  5. NW Luna says:

    Lolsob on the comments to the CDC banned words story.

    bsonnpublic — Next: ban “disease,” “prevention” and “control”?

    ice and mountain — Best of luck with your next faith-based medical exam, goobers.

    angela zimm — You can’t call it a fetus, but it still qualifies for a tax break. Go figure.

    • NW Luna says:

  6. NW Luna says:

    BB, I like the artwork you chose for this post — sombre, has a feeling of holding out through the cold when spring seems so far off and you wonder if the world will ever be green and budding again. Very much fits the stories you’ve picked to highlight.

    We’re now living in a country where certain words are forbidden. How soon until more words are verboten? Makes me want to yell in the street: “Evidence-based! Science-based! Diversity!

  7. NW Luna says:

    Maybe another Wordle on the sidebar soon?

  8. bostonboomer says:

    HuffPost: When Middle Schoolers Say #MeToo

    Shortly after last year’s election at an elementary school near my home, boys apparently played “Trump tag” by grabbing at girls’ genitals. A school counselor at a Midwest middle school told me this week about “Grab Tits Tuesday.” The mother of a ninth-grade girl emailed that boys shouted “grab their asses” (and did) as girls filed out during a fire drill at their upstate New York high school; she said she has spent hours in the principal’s office advocating for her daughter, whose buttocks are grabbed frequently as she walks from science to history class.

  9. Sweet Sue says:

    Spent hours advocating for her daughter in the principal’s office?? Why is that necessary?
    Say what you will about my father and I could say plenty, but, I’m pretty sure that he would have taken a baseball bat to the school and cracked heads.

    • NW Luna says:

      Good point — systemic tolerance only encourages this sort of abuse. The boys’ behavior was *wrong* and it shouldn’t take parents spending hours trying to convince the principal of that.

  10. NW Luna says:

    On Taibbi and Ames “belittling, cruel and deeply damaging without demanding sex” — I read something a few months back on their Russian bro-fest organization which indicated that they were most likely sexually assaulting the young naive teen girls working for them. Not that I want to give credence to everything on the internet — will try to find that source. I don’t have a good classification system for everything I could bookmark on the corruption around us.

  11. NW Luna says:

    The Guardian is doing a series on one of America’s outstanding characteristics.

    Why the UN is investigating extreme poverty … in America, the world’s richest nation. At the heart of Philip Alston’s special mission will be one question: can Americans enjoy fundamental human rights if they’re unable to meet basic living standards?

    The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, is a feisty Australian and New York University law professor who has a fearsome track record of holding power to account. He tore a strip off the Saudi Arabian regime for its treatment of women months before the kingdom legalized their right to drive, denounced the Brazilian government for attacking the poor through austerity, and even excoriated the UN itself for importing cholera to Haiti.

    The US is no stranger to Alston’s withering tongue, having come under heavy criticism from him for its program of drone strikes on terrorist targets abroad. In his previous role as UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Alston blamed the Obama administration and the CIA for killing many innocent civilians in attacks he said were of dubious international legality.

    “Despite great wealth in the US, there also exists great poverty and inequality,” Alston said in remarks released before the start of the visit. The rapporteur said he intended to focus on the detrimental effects of poverty on the civil and political rights of Americans, “given the United States’ consistent emphasis on the importance it attaches to these rights in its foreign policy, and given that it has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

  12. NW Luna says:

    Here’s some good news:

    Anita Hill chosen to lead Hollywood sexual harassment commission

    As announced late Friday by the commission — an initiative spearheaded by producer Kathleen Kennedy, along with attorney Nina Shaw, venture capitalist Freada Kapor Klein and Nike Foundation co-chair Maria Eitel — the goal of the new group is to help combat the kind of sexual misconduct that recent revelations have shown to be pervasive in Hollywood.

    In her new role, Anita Hill once again will find herself leading the charge against sexual harassment, a mission that began when she testified on Capitol Hill at the 1991 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Kennedy, in a statement, said the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace “will not seek just one solution, but a comprehensive strategy to address the complex and interrelated causes of the problems of parity and power.”

  13. bostonboomer says:


    Axios: Scoop: Mueller obtains “tens of thousands” of Trump transition emails

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained “many tens of thousands” of Trump transition emails, including sensitive emails of Jared Kushner, transition team sources tell Axios.

    Trump officials discovered Mueller had the emails when his prosecutors used them as the basis for questions to witnesses, the sources said.

    The emails include 12 accounts, one of which contains about 7,000 emails, the sources said.
    The accounts include the team’s political leadership and the foreign-policy team, the sources said….

    The sources say that transition officials assumed that Mueller would come calling, and had sifted through the emails and separated the ones they considered privileged. But the sources said that was for naught, since Mueller has the complete cache from the dozen accounts.

  14. Minkoff Minx says:

    Just catching up on my reading from my migraine, this was no lazy Saturday post. Way to go B.B.