Fabulous Friday Reads

Portrait of a woman reading in bed, Nicoline Tuxon, Danish painter

Portrait of a woman reading in bed, Nicoline Tuxon, Danish painter

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

Steve Bannon is in court for his sentencing hearing right now. I’m keeping an eye out for the final decision, but so far Judge Carl Nichols has said he will have to serve at least a month in prison because that is the mandatory minimum sentence for contempt of Congress. The maximum is 2 years. According to CNN, the judge has called a short recess, after which he will announce the sentence. Bannon declined to speak, saying that his lawyers had spoken for him. I’ll update the post as soon as I learn Judge Nichols’ final decision.

UPDATE: Bannon sentenced to 4 months in prison. Obviously, he will appeal his conviction. From Yahoo News: Steve Bannon sentenced to 4 months in prison for criminal contempt of Congress.

WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon, ex-White House strategist and adviser to former President Donald Trump, was sentenced Friday to four months in federal prison and a $6,500 fine for refusing to appear before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols sentenced Bannon to four months each on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, but the prison terms will be served concurrently.

A jury found Bannon guilty of the charges in July of two counts of criminal contempt — one for refusing to appear for a deposition before the panel and the other for refusing to produce requested documents. Each count carries a minimum potential sentence of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, as well as a fine of $100 to $1,000.

Federal prosecutors sought six months in jail, while Bannon’s attorneys asked the court for probation.

Trump’s legal problems continue to escalate. Down in Georgia, former White House Counsel Pat Cippolone, and form George Senator Kelly Loeffler have each testified to the grand jury in the election interference case, and Lindsey Graham has been ordered to testify as well. And Trump crony Kash Patel has testified to the grand jury in stolen documents case.

CNN: Former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, former US Sen. Kelly Loeffler testify to grand jury in Georgia investigating 2020 election interference.

Prosecutors in Georgia have secured grand jury testimony from two prominent witnesses – former US Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone – in their investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in that state, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

Laurits Tuxon, Portrait of his daughter looking at some drawings

Laurits Tuxon, Portrait of his daughter looking at some drawings

Their grand jury appearances in recent months, which have not been previously reported, highlight the wide-ranging investigation underway as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis probes efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to try to keep him in power.

Cipollone was the top White House lawyer at the end of the Trump administration and attended some of the meetings where Trump and his allies discussed ways to subvert the election results. He was among the former President’s advisers who pushed back along with the Justice Department, which found no evidence to support the claims of widespread fraud.

Cipollone has provided testimony to the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, as well as to a federal grand jury in the Justice Department’s criminal investigation, where he invoked Trump’s privilege claims to decline to answer some questions. He declined to comment on questions about the grand jury.

The revelation that Loeffler testified before the grand jury comes as hundreds of Loeffler’s text messages have surfaced, revealing new details about the Georgia Republican’s correspondence about efforts to challenge the election in the months leading up to and immediately following the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

More details at the CNN link.

The Washington Post: Lindsey Graham must testify in 2020 election investigation, court rules.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) must appear before a Georgia grand jury investigating possible attempts by President Donald Trump and his allies to disrupt the state’s 2020 presidential election, a federal appeals court said Thursday.

Graham’s lawyers had asked the court to block a subpoena from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D), claiming that a sitting senator is shielded from such investigations. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied Graham’s request and upheld a lower-court ruling narrowing the range of questions prosecutors can ask.

“Senator Graham has failed to demonstrate that this approach will violate his rights under the Speech and Debate Clause,” the order states, referring to the constitutional provision that protects lawmakers from being questioned about legislative activity.

Graham can ask the full appeals court to reconsider the order or ask the Supreme Court to intervene….

Willis wants to question Graham about calls he made to Georgia election officials soon after Trump lost the election to Joe Biden. Prosecutors say Graham has “unique knowledge” about the Trump campaign and the “multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results” of the 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.

Graham’s legal team has said in court filings that his actions were legitimate legislative activity protected by the Constitution’s “speech and debate clause.”

Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, The schoolgirl reading by lamplight

Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, The schoolgirl reading by lamplight

CNN: Trump adviser Kash Patel has appeared before grand jury in Mar-a-Lago document probe.

Kash Patel, a top adviser to former President Donald Trump who has been deeply involved in disputes over classified records Trump kept from his presidency, appeared recently before the federal grand jury looking into the handling of documents at Mar-a-Lago, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

Patel spent several hours throughout the morning of October 13 before a grand jury at the US courthouse in Washington, DC. But it’s not clear if Patel answered the grand jury’s questions or declined to respond citing his Fifth Amendment protections, which is within his rights.

He is one of a handful of advisers around Donald Trump after his presidency who could have legal risk related to the Mar-a-Lago situation, according to court records and the sources, though it’s unclear if he is a target of the Justice Department probe. Patel served as a national security and defense official during the administration, and this summer became one of Trump’s designees to interact with the National Archives and the Justice Department as both agencies have tried to repossess classified records Trump kept from his presidency.

He has claimed in media interviews he personally witnessed Trump declassifying records before he left the presidency, and has argued he should be able to release classified information….

CNN spotted Patel walking the halls of the federal courthouse mid-morning last Thursday, remaining in the grand jury area for several hours until about 1 p.m. One of his attorneys, Stanley Woodward, ducked out of the ongoing Oath Keepers trial where he is a defense attorney for another defense client to escort Patel, wearing a bold red plaid jacket, down from the grand jury meeting area and out of the building. When asked at the courthouse by CNN, Woodward refused to say what Patel’s matter was about, and only confirmed that he represented the Trump adviser.

Read more at CNN.

Amanda Marcotte has a good article at Salon about the mainstream media’s election coverage: Please, media, stop pitting abortion against inflation — Republicans suck on both issues.

Cable news in the weeks before an election is the ninth circle of hell. For proof, look no further than the way MSNBC subjected Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to an interview by 79-year-old white guy plagiarist and organized crime apologist Mike Barnicle. Abrams, whose only crime is being a “Star Trek” nerd who wants Georgia to suck less, was subjected to this crotchety fraud demanding she stop talking about abortion rights so much, arguing that what voters supposedly care about is “the cost of gas, food, bread, milk, things like that.” Because, as all old men who have never changed a diaper know, having and raising babies is totally free, unlike a gallon of gasoline.

ruby-ring-thomas-linker

The Ruby Ring, by Thomas Linker

Abrams handled the question as well as she could, pointing out that you “can’t divorce being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy from the economic realities of having a child.” She went on to outline her plans to help Georgians with rising housing prices and other economic problems. But as much as it’s fun to kick around Barnicle for being out of touch, the sad truth is the false premise of his question is endemic throughout the mainstream media coverage of the 2022 midterm elections. Everywhere you turn, pundits and reporters are treating this election as if it’s a choice between fighting inflation and protecting abortion rights.

This is, and it cannot be stressed enough, total hooey. When it comes to the ballot box, there is absolutely no trade-off between reproductive rights and the economy. Either way, voting Republican is bad: Bad for the economy, bad for abortion rights. Pretending otherwise is misleading to the point of outright dishonesty. 

To say Republicans have no plan to fight inflation if they retake Congress is really an understatement. They have nothing concrete to offer about the issue beyond using it as a stick to beat Democrats with. The second polls close on Election Day, all GOP interest in relieving Americans’ economic woes will dry up.

We know this because Republicans aren’t even being subtle about their future plans, which most definitely do not involve giving a fig about inflation. As Heather “Digby” Parton wrote for Salon on Wednesday, Republicans are largely plotting to gin up fake scandals to demonize President Joe Biden. And that’s the best-case scenario.

Read the whole thing at Salon. It’s excellent.

President Joe Biden made the same point yesterday. Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: Joe Biden’s Walk-and-Chew-Gum Campaign.

For most of President Joe Biden’s tenure, Fox News’s Peter Doocy has played the role of pressroom scourge. A barbed question so nettled Biden back in January that the President was caught on a live microphone calling him a “stupid son of a bitch,” for which he quickly called Doocy to apologize. That specific query is the same one that still haunts Biden’s Presidency and his party today: “Do you think inflation is a political liability ahead of the midterms?” The answer, then and now, can be nothing other than the blindingly obvious: yes.

Doocy, at the tail end of a White House photo opportunity. With less than three weeks to go before the midterm elections, the President was signing an order to release fifteen million more barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. “It’s not politically motivated at all,” Biden insisted, though even the most diehard Democrat would have a hard time seeing the move as anything other than a last-ditch effort to stop gas prices at the pump from rising further before the vote. Republicans were quick to pounce: Was this the kind of strategic use for which the stockpile was intended?

As Biden stood to leave, Doocy shouted a question. “Top domestic issue: Inflation or abortion?” he asked.

“They’re all important. Unlike you, there’s no one thing,” Biden retorted. “We oughta be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”

In The Book Store Painting Irina Sztukowski

In The Book Store, by Irina Sztukowski

Finally, The Washington Post has an exclusive on Elon Musk’s plans to destroy Twitter if he manages to buy it: Documents detail plans to gut Twitter’s workforce.

Twitter’s workforce is likely to be hit with massive cuts in the coming months, no matter who owns the company, interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Post show, a change likely to have major impact on its ability to control harmful content and prevent data security crises.

Elon Musk told prospective investors in his deal to buy the company that he planned to get rid of nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, whittling the company down to a skeleton staff of just over 2,000.

Even if Musk’s Twitter deal falls through — and there’s little indication now that it will — big cuts are expected: Twitter’s current management planned to pare the company’s payroll by about $800 million by the end of next year, a number that would mean the departure of nearly a quarter of the workforce, according to corporate documents and interviews with people familiar with the company’s deliberations. The company also planned to make major cuts to its infrastructure, including data centers that keep the site functioning for more than 200 million users that log on each day.

The extent of the cuts, which have not been previously reported, help explain why Twitter officials were eager to sell to Musk: Musk’s $44 billion bid, though hostile, is a golden ticket for the struggling company — potentially helping its leadership avoid painful announcements that would have demoralized the staff and possibly crippledthe service’s ability to combat misinformation, hate speech and spam.

The impact of such layoffs would likely be immediately felt by millions of users, said Edwin Chen, a data scientist formerly in charge of Twitter’s spam and health metrics and now CEO of the content-moderation start-up Surge AI. He said that while he believed Twitter was overstaffed,the cuts Musk proposed were “unimaginable” and would put Twitter’s users at risk of hacks and exposure to offensive material such as child pornography.

“It would be a cascading effect,” he said, “where you’d have services going down and the people remaining not having the institutional knowledge to get them back up, and being completely demoralized and wanting to leave themselves.”

Twitter is where I go to get the very latest breaking news, but I guess the days of being able to do that are numbered.

What are your thoughts on these stories? What else is on your mind today?


Monday Reads: Of Laws and Law Breakers

Good Day Sky Dancers!

There are two themes to the news stream this morning. The first is that the Inflation Reduction Act is about to become law. The CBO has scored its expected budget and economic income impacts. It’s amazing how many idiots are lecturing me on how inflationary this Act will be, as if I don’t know what I’m talking about. Anyway, here’s the inflation analysis if any of your crazy right-wing parrots start screaming “inflation” at you.

This is actually a letter the CBO sent to Lady Lindsey, who is pearl-clutching over inflation because that’s the only thing the Republicans have to discuss.

In calendar year 2022, enacting the bill would have a negligible effect on inflation, in CBO’s assessment. In calendar year 2023, inflation would probably be between 0.1 percentage point lower and 0.1 percentage point higher under the bill than it would be under current law, CBO estimates.

That range of likely outcomes reflects uncertainty about how various provisions of the bill would affect overall demand and output, the supply of labor, the persistence of disruptions in the supply of goods and services, and how the Federal Reserve would respond to offset any increase in inflationary pressure. Responsiveness to the enhancement of health insurance subsidies established by the Affordable Care Act is the most important factor boosting inflationary pressure, and responsiveness to the new alternative minimum tax on corporations is the most important factor reducing inflationary pressure. The range applies to multiple measures of inflation: the GDP price index, the personal consumption expenditures price index, and the consumer price index for all urban consumers.

In other good news, Consumer’s inflation expectations are decreasing. This is important because it is a factor in how customers make decisions about spending. This is from CNBC and not written by the talking head at Fox Business that trolled my analysis. But, that link from the CBO with huge econometrics models agrees with me. My assumption is that Kenny Polcari can’t do modern finance and doesn’t have anything huge around him but his crony capitalism booty. He s undoubtedly enjoying his ability to avoid taxes with the treatment Sinema just granted him. I’m tempted to quote Swift on the confederacy of dunces. This is from Jeffy Cox at CNBC: “Consumers’ expectations of future inflation decreased significantly in win for the Federal Reserve.”

  • A New York Fed survey showed that respondents in July expected inflation to run at a 6.2% pace over the next year and a 3.2% rate for the next three years.
  • That marks a big drop-off from the respective 6.8% and 3.6% results from the June survey
  • Expectations for food increases fell at the fastest rate in survey history and the second-fastest for gasoline prices.

The consumer outlook for inflation decreased significantly in July amid a sharp drop in gas prices and a growing belief that the rapid surges in food and housing also would ebb in the future.

The New York Federal Reserve’s monthly Survey of Consumer Expectations showed that respondents expect inflation to run at a 6.2% pace over the next year and a 3.2% rate for the next three years.

While those numbers are still very high by historical standards, they mark a big drop-off from the respective 6.8% and 3.6% results from the June survey

I guess that high inflation in the Nixon years is part of history.  (sigh)  But let me just quote from Business Insider on huge Kyrsten Sinema’s suck-up to hedge fund managers and the like. “Kyrsten Sinema ensured a $14 billion tax break for private equity, hedge fund, and real estate executives remains intact. It’s a win for many of her campaign donors.”  The analysis is written by Sam Tabahriti.

The Arizona senator’s support was won late Thursday after fellow Democrats dropped a proposal to close the so-called “carried interest” loophole, which is commonly used by private equity, hedge fund, and property investment executives to pay a lower rate of tax on their compensation.

As such, it was a win for many Sinema campaign donors.

According to Open Secrets, the global private equity firms KKR, Carlyle, and Apollo Global Management are among the leading 20 sources of donations to Sinema’s campaign committee between 2017 and 2022.

As Open Secrets notes, it isn’t the organizations in the list that donated money directly, but rather, their “political action committees, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families.” Further, subsidiaries and affiliates are included in the organizations’ total donations figure.

Other organizations listed by Open Secrets among the leading 20 sources of donations include Andreessen Horowitz, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has invested in companies including Facebook, Twitter, and Airbnb; and Rudin Management, a private commercial and residential landlord and developer in New York City.

All in all, Sinema has received $2.2 million from investment firms between 2017 and 2022, according to Open Secrets.

Well, that explains that.  Then, the other icky result was that Republicans could not bring themselves to support a price control on Insulin which is cheap to make, but its price inelasticity is off the wall.  That’s fancy economist talk, for if you need it, you’ll give up everything else.  Insulin is basically treated like legal heroin from a huge drug cartel. Republicans used a dodgy procedure to kill that part of the Act.

This is from WAPO: “Republicans block cap on insulin costs for millions of patients. GOP senators move to strip a $35 price cap on insulin under private insurance from the Inflation Reduction Act.”

Republican lawmakers on Sunday successfully stripped a $35 price cap on the cost of insulin for many patients from the ambitious legislative package Democrats are moving through Congress this weekend, invoking arcane Senate rules to jettison the measure.

The insulin cap is a long-running ambition of Democrats, who want it to apply to patients on Medicare and private insurance. Republicans left the portion that applies to Medicare patients untouched but stripped the insulin cap for other patients. Bipartisan talks on a broader insulin pricing bill faltered earlier this year.

The Senate parliamentarian earlier in the weekend ruled that part of the Democrats’ cap, included in the Inflation Reduction Act, did not comply with the rules that allow them to advance a bill under the process known as reconciliation — a tactic that helps them avert a GOP filibuster. That gave the Republicans an opening to jettison it

So, now to more Trumpsters and their crime sprees.  I will dump these links here with very few comments and quotes.  The headlines say it all, but the stories are worth reading.

Via The New Yorker:  “Inside the War Between Trump and His Generals.”  Remember that big parade for Bastille Day in Paris that enthralled the Russian Potted Plant?

Sure enough, Trump returned to Washington determined to have his generals throw him the biggest, grandest military parade ever for the Fourth of July. The generals, to his bewilderment, reacted with disgust. “I’d rather swallow acid,” his Defense Secretary, James Mattis, said. Struggling to dissuade Trump, officials pointed out that the parade would cost millions of dollars and tear up the streets of the capital.

But the gulf between Trump and the generals was not really about money or practicalities, just as their endless policy battles were not only about clashing views on whether to withdraw from Afghanistan or how to combat the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and Iran. The divide was also a matter of values, of how they viewed the United States itself. That was never clearer than when Trump told his new chief of staff, John Kelly—like Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general—about his vision for Independence Day. “Look, I don’t want any wounded guys in the parade,” Trump said. “This doesn’t look good for me.” He explained with distaste that at the Bastille Day parade there had been several formations of injured veterans, including wheelchair-bound soldiers who had lost limbs in battle.

Kelly could not believe what he was hearing. “Those are the heroes,” he told Trump. “In our society, there’s only one group of people who are more heroic than they are—and they are buried over in Arlington.” Kelly did not mention that his own son Robert, a lieutenant killed in action in Afghanistan, was among the dead interred there.

“I don’t want them,” Trump repeated. “It doesn’t look good for me.”

From Mike Allen at Axios, which just got sold to Cox: Exclusive photos: Trump’s telltale toilet

Haberman’s sources report the document dumps happened multiple times at the White House, and on at least two foreign trips.

  • “That Mr. Trump was discarding documents this way was not widely known within the West Wing, but some aides were aware of the habit, which he engaged in repeatedly,” Haberman tells us.
  • “It was an extension of Trump’s term-long habit of ripping up documents that were supposed to be preserved under the Presidential Records Act.”

The handwriting is visibly Trump’s, written in the Sharpie ink he favored.

  • Most of the words are illegible
  • But the scrawls include the name of Rep. Elise Stefanik of upstate New York, a Trump defender who’s a member of House Republican leadership.

Oy.just.Oy.

From Mattathias Schwartz at  Insider:  Exclusive: Paul Manafort admits he passed Trump campaign data to a suspected Russian asset.

Here’s a discussion of the interview and findings at Raw Story by TBogg: Paul Manafort admits sharing info with the Russians during the 2016 Trump campaign.

For years, questions have been raised about Russian involvement in the campaign that saw the New York businessman beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Manafort is now stating that he handed polling data over to the Russians — in particular to “Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime business associate with suspected ties to Russian intelligence.”

According to the report, “Kilimnik then passed the data on to Russian spies, according to the US Treasury Department, which has characterized the data as ‘sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy.'”

In the interview, Manafort excused his actions stating he wasn’t looking for help getting Trump elected and did it purely to make money, with Business Insider reporting, “Manafort told Insider that he directed his deputy, Rick Gates, to feed Kilimnik polling data via email to ‘keep Konstantin informed.’ The goal was to use his access to Trump to drum up business for himself.

Well, we already knew he’s a Russian Potted Plant.  Didn’t we?

From Tim Miller / Morning Shots writing for The Bulwark: I’m Sorry, But He’s Running. Trump’s CPAC speech was his 2024 blueprint.”

With that little bit of throat-clearing out of the way, I have some bad news to report. If you, like me, had been compartmentalizing a Trump 2024 run for mental-health purposes, I’m sorry to break it to you, but he looks like a man who is definitely running for president in 2024. His CPAC speech this weekend was a rude awakening as to both his intentions and the strength he would bring to that campaign.

First, his intentions: There was no bigger roar from the crowd during the speech than during the following section, and there was no bigger shit-eating grin on his burnt-toast face than the one that came following the roar:

I ran twice. I won twice and did much better the second time than I did the first getting millions and millions of more votes than in 2016. And likewise getting more votes than any sitting president in the history of our country by far. . . . And now we may have to do it again. We may have to do it again.

That little bit of anti-democratic vamping came right on the heels of what would be his core campaign message to the GOP base in a 2024 campaign.

The border was the best and safest in U.S. recorded history. They’ve turned it into a nightmare so quickly, the election was rigged and stolen. And now our country is being systematically destroyed.

If you are reading this, then you are likely a person of reason who is not persuaded by the lies and childish hyperbole.

But let’s imagine this message in the context of a 2024 Republican primary. Trump is claiming that when he was president, everything was great. Then the election was stolen. And now everything is being destroyed by the people his voters hate.

What exactly is his hypothetical challenger’s response to this? It seems to me that Trump has everyone checkmated.

Say it ain’t so Tim!

Anyway, the Republicans aren’t going straight any time soon.  We can only rely on the DOJ in a few states and nationally to send them straight to jail.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Fairy visitors…

Good morning. I’ve been visited by the migraine fairy, so just a quick post today.

Cartoons via Cagle website:

If only:

Now that is a pretty purple bird.

This is an open thread.


Monday Reads

Monday Strikes Again!

So, BB and I could not figure out anything that made sense about the “Q Anon” stuff that was a press hot item last week.  Do you remember back in the day before the internet was overtaken by commercial interests and most of its denizens were academic nerdy types like me?  Well, folks started inventing real life versions of fanfic games including maps, and secrets, and treasures that may have followed a reality set up by a game console game. Most of it was just really bad fanfic too.  The entire QAnon thing just read like really, really bad fanfic to me. and that is what it now appears to be.  Its motivation was to evidently drive boomers nuts and it’s evidently a leftie bro thing. The nonsensical conspiracy site was called “Bread Crumbs.”

According to Q, nearly every president before Trump was a “criminal president” who was part of an evil global organization of Satanist pedophiles. It also claims members of the US military who are not working for the global pedophile cabal supposedly approached Trump and begged him to run for president so that they could purge the government of the deep state operatives without a military coup.

Q claims Trump is not under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, but that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are. And Trump is actually working with Mueller.

Q regularly drops clues that followers call “crumbs,” which are meant to predict things. For instance, he claimed John Podesta would be arrested or indicted Nov. 3, 2017 — which, of course, didn’t happen

See, bad fanfic. But the bottom line, with tons of documentation at the Buzzfeed piece citied here is that it was a hoax which finally makes sense to me.  Imagine bored dateless BernieBros in a basement some where ….

“Let us take for granted, for a while, that QAnon started as a prank in order to trigger right-wing weirdos and have a laugh at them. There’s no doubt it has long become something very different. At a certain level it still sounds like a prank. But who’s pulling it on whom?” they said.

They also point to the fact that even this article runs the risk of being sucked into the QAnon vortex and just adding more fuel to the fire. “If [QAnon’s] perpetrators claimed responsibility for it and showed some evidence (for example, unmistakeable references to our book and the Luther Blissett Project), would the explanation itself become yet another part of the narrative, or would it generate a new narrative encompassing and defusing the previous one?”

So, now that’s cleared up the press can leave it alone.  There are real things out there.  That sucking sound you hear are wages and wealth going to the richest of the rich.

On May 8th, Brookings officially launched a new initiative on the Future of the Middle Class. Through this initiative, we will publish research, analysis, and insights that are motivated by a desire to improve the quality of life for those in America’s middle class and to improve upward mobility into its ranks. We have already wrestled with how we define this group, considered its changing racial composition, and called upon experts to outline major policies geared toward improving its fate. But why all of this attention? Here are seven of the reasons we are worried about the American middle class.

Today, I feel the “dismal” in the dismal science meme.  Retirement prospects for many Boomers includes Bankruptcy.

For a rapidly growing share of older Americans, traditional ideas about life in retirement are being upended by a dismal reality: bankruptcy.

The signs of potential trouble — vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings — have been building for years. Now, new research sheds light on the scope of the problem: The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, the study found, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers.

Driving the surge, the study suggests, is a three-decade shift of financial risk from government and employers to individuals, who are bearing an ever-greater responsibility for their own financial well-being as the social safety net shrinks.

The transfer has come in the form of, among other things, longer waits for full Social Security benefits, the replacement of employer-provided pensions with 401(k) savings plans and more out-of-pocket spending on health care. Declining incomes, whether in retirement or leading up to it, compound the challenge.

Well, that’s no surprise.  It’s also no surprise that Trump is behaving badly on the World Stage again. “Trump signs order reimposing sanctions on Iran – a move the EU said it ‘deeply’ regrets.”  Well, we knew Bolten had to be getting something to help with all that Putin Ass Kissing.

Donald Trump has signed an executive order reimposing sanctions on Iran – a move the EU said it “deeply” regretted.

Three months after he revealed he was pulling the US out of the seven-party Iran nuclear deal, Mr Trump announced the reimposition of wide range of sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation. Three months after he revealed he was pulling the US out of the seven-party Iran nuclear deal, Mr Trump announced the reimposition of a wide range of  of sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation. A second set will be reimposed in a further three months.

“[The Iran nuclear deal] a horrible, one-sided deal, failed to achieve the fundamental objective of blocking all paths to an Iranian nuclear bomb, and it threw a lifeline of cash to a murderous dictatorship that has continued to spread bloodshed, violence, and chaos,” Mr Trump said in a statement.

“Since the deal was reached, Iran’s aggression has only increased.  The regime has used the windfall of newly accessible funds it received under the JCPOA to build nuclear-capable missiles, fund terrorism, and fuel conflict across the Middle East and beyond.”

In the aftermath of Mr Trump’s unilateral decision in May, the other parties to the 2015 deal – Russia, China, Germany, France, the UK and the EU – vowed to stick with the deal and to and continue to trade with Iran. Several companies, such as French-based Airbus, felt obliged to pull out of a deal with Iran, rather than risk sanctions from Washington.

The revoking of licensees to the company and its rival, Boeing, saw the aircraft manufacturer lose out on a $39bn deal with Tehran for new planes. Easing sanctions such as this was a major inducement get Tehran to sign the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 under President Barack Obama.

The executive order signed on Monday, which will come into effect at midnight EST, releases to the purchase or acquisition of US currency Iran, the trade in gold and other precious metals, materials such as graphite, aluminium, steel, coal, and software used in industrial processes. They also target the country’ automotive sector.

The remaining sanctions to be reimposed on November 5 relate to Iran’s port operators and energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors. Crucially, they will also target its oil industry and foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.

It’s like he’s single handedly destroying our economic, world order, and the environment.   This news is awful but typical Trump policy.

Two of America’s biggest steel manufacturers — both with deep ties to administration officials — have successfully objected to hundreds of requests by American companies that buy foreign steel to exempt themselves from President Trump’s stiff metal tariffs. They have argued that the imported products are readily available from American steel manufacturers.

Charlotte-based Nucor, which financed a documentary filmmade by a top trade adviser to Mr. Trump, and Pittsburgh-based United States Steel, which has previously employed several top administration officials, have objected to 1,600 exemption requests filed with the Commerce Department over the past several months.

To date, their efforts have never failed, resulting in denials for companies that are based in the United States but rely on imported pipes, screws, wire and other foreign steel products for their supply chains.

The ability of a single industry to exert so much influence over the exclusions process is striking even in Mr. Trump’s business-friendly White House, given the high stakes for thousands of American companies that depend on foreign metals. But the boundaries of trade policy are being tested by the scope of Mr. Trump’s multifront trade war with allies and adversaries alike, which includes tariffs on up to $200 billion worth of goods from China and possible tariffs on automobiles and auto parts.

And the psychic trauma will only increase:

But after watching Trump for all this time, there’s no reason to beat around the bush on this question anymore. Donald Trump is a racist, and we all know it. He could barely have tried any harder to convince us. Not only did he turn himself into a political figure by making himself America’s most prominent birther, he repeatedly demanded to see Barack Obama’s high school and college transcripts, on the theory that Obama couldn’t possibly have been smart enough to get into Columbia and Harvard Law School on his own merit. He ran a white nationalist campaign for president, and said that the judge in his Trump University fraud cause couldn’t be fair because “He’s a Mexican” (in fact, the judge is an American). On multiple occasions he retweeted racist memes from white supremacists. In a White House meeting about immigration, he said that Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” and complained that once Nigerian immigrants had seen the United States they would never “go back to their huts” (Nigerian immigrants are one of the most highly educated groups in America). He meets a group of Native American war heroes, and decides to bring up the fact that he insults Elizabeth Warren by calling her “Pocahontas.” And of course, he called non-white nations “shithole countries” and averred that a group of neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis were “very fine people.”

So we know who Donald Trump is, and why he says what he does. The fact that much of what Trump says about African Americans is performative—a public show meant to keep his base angry—doesn’t mean that the bigotry isn’t sincerely felt.

This is a good reminder that Trump’s 2020 campaign will be no less built on hate than his 2016 campaign was. In fact, it could be even more so. Trump will no longer be able to plausibly argue that there’s a system controlled by an elite that’s keeping regular people down, since he and his party are the ones with all the power. So it’s likely that he’ll rely even more heavily on white nationalism to get re-elected.

The weirdest thing happened Sunday in a Twitler Special that basically was a confession to collusion and to a cover up.

Donald Trump has admitted for the first time that his son met a Kremlin-connected lawyer in 2016 to collect information about Hillary Clinton, but insists the meeting was legal.

In one of a series of Sunday morning tweets issued in apparent reaction to a CNN report, the US president wrote: “Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!”

That explanation differs entirely from one given by Trump 13 months ago, when a statement dictated by the president but released under the name of Donald Trump Jr read: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago.”

The 2016 meeting is pivotal to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia collusion investigation, though Trump’s tweets appeared aimed at conveying the message that he is not worried about Donald Trump Jr’s exposure to the inquiry.

He made the remarks as one of his lawyers warned the special counsel against trying to force the president to be interviewed.

The dude seriously keeps admitting to crimes. Why can’t we lock hIm up?   “President Trump changes story in Twitter rant admitting Trump Tower meeting was to gather intel on Hillary Clinton.”

The President’s latest social media meltdown was in reaction to what he called a “complete fabrication” in Sunday’s Washington Post claiming Trump was concerned “innocent and decent people,” including his son Donald Trump Jr., could be hurt by Mueller’s probe exploring links between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

“This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics — and it went nowhere,” he wrote. “I did not know about it!”

Thirteen months ago, Trump gave a different explanation for the meeting between his eldest son and parties alleging ties to the Russian government. A July 2017 statement credited to Don Jr. and later discovered to have been dictated by the President read: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago.”

Though the President maintains he knew nothing about the Trump Tower meeting prior to its taking place, his former fixer Michael Cohen, who has reportedly indicated a willingness to cooperate with Mueller’s team, has allegedly said otherwise.

Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that he had “bad information” when he personally argued that the meeting was about adoption.

So, this is just an open news dump thread!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Bonfire of the Insanities

One of the “The Eight Omens” of the fall Aztec Emipire

Good Morning Skydancers!

I’m going to do my economist thing today because, my family, I think you need to know that the last year has been about taking actions that will blow things up. It’s true for the economy too. There have been so many bad economic policies coming out of this regime that it’s truly hard to figure out the extent things will be blowing up but it’s already starting. I feel like I’m continually delivering dismal news but forewarned is forarmed. Praemonitus praemunitus–the original Latin form–is actually the motto of the United States Army Security Agency. That seems oddly prescient.

Here’s the list of omens that I’ve been keeping track of the coming economic crash. I live in ground zero. We haven’t recovered from Jindal’s terrible policies yet. The Port of New Orleans and other port cities are going to lose a lot of business.

‘China is slamming $34 billion worth of US goods with tariffs. Here are the states that will be hurt the most.’

The states that exported more than $1 billion worth of tariff-eligible goods to China in 2017 were Texas, Louisiana, Washington, California, Alabama, South Carolina, Illinois, and Kentucky.

Another one of the “The Eight Omens” of the fall Aztec Emipire

Southeast Missouri nail company gets hammered by Trump’s tariffs

President Trump’s tariff on steel imports that took effect June 1 has caused a southeast Missouri nail manufacturer to lose abo9ut 50% of its business in two weeks. Mid Continent Nail Corporation in Poplar Bluff – the remaining major nail producer in the country – has had to take drastic measures to make ends meet. The company employing 500 people earlier this month has laid off 60 temporary workers. It could slash 200 more jobs by the end of July and be out of business around Labor Day.

Arkansas Farm Bureau president “concerned” with soybean prices because of Chinese tariffs’

Since China proposed tariffs on soybeans following president trump’s announced tariffs on Chinese goods, the price of soybean bushels have dropped 20 percent.

For farmers in Arkansas, that’s something that could mean the end of their business.

Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach says it’s something he’s keeping an eye on. “We’re concerned, of course,” Veach said.

Being a soybean farmer himself, when he saw China was placing a tariff on United States soybeans, the market dropped the value of that crop to around nine dollars a bushel, putting Arkansas farmers in a difficult spot.

“They actually buy 60 percent of all the soybeans that’s traded around the globe,” Veach said. “We can’t make a profit at that low of a price.”

Bernhard Rode 1768-69 An augur explains Numa Pompilius after the oracle of bird flight to the king .

‘Double whammy: U.S. pork, fruit producers brace for second wave of Chinese tariffs’

U.S. producers of pork, already saddled with duties enacted in an earlier round of the escalating trade dispute with China, are bracing for further pain after Beijing hit the products with additional tariffs due to come into effect next month.

China implemented a 25 percent duty on most U.S. pork items on April 2, and a 15 percent tariff on a range of fruits and nuts, in response to U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum products.

Last week it included both categories in a second round of tariffs to be imposed on July 6. No other products have been listed twice.

Pork now faces cumulative import duties of 71 percent, not including value added tax, according to a formula published on the website of China’s finance ministry last week. Cumulative duties on fruit amount to 50 percent.

“The additional tariff will put us out of business,” said Zhong Zheng, founder of China-based Heartland Brothers, which sells U.S.-produced Berkshire pork to Chinese supermarkets and restaurants”

Manuscript of the mid-nineteenth century, possibly of Sgaw Karen origin, shows various appearances in the sun, the moon, clouds, etc., and indicates the primarily bad omens these appearances foretell. Explanations in English were added to this manuscript by a nineteenth-century American missionary

You beginning to see pattern here? And oh, look! We’re exporting jobs to the EU now! You know them! Land of livable wages and benefits?

President Donald Trump’s trade war with the European Union is going to cost Harley-Davidson Inc. as much as $100 million a year and spur a shift of production outside the U.S. at the manufacturer he embraced early in his term.

Each motorcycle shipped to Europe will mean a $2,200 expense because of the EU’s retaliatory tariffs for Trump’s steel and aluminum duties, according to a Monday filing. Passing that on to dealers or customers would cause an “immediate and lasting detrimental impact” on the company’s business in its second-largest market, so it will absorb most of those levies.

While Trump has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. can easily win trade wars, victims are starting to pile up at home and abroad. Daimler AG warned last week that escalating tension between the U.S. and China will impair earnings its Alabama SUV plant and lower profit this year. Harley tied its higher costs to a sequence started by Trump, who praised the company as a model American manufacturer during a February 2017 meeting at the White House.

Examples of omens from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493): natural phenomena and unnatural births.

So, I wrote about the yield curve looking pretty bad awhile back. It’s really looking bad now. It’s a total harbinger of really nasty recessions.

Some economists on Wall Street think the economy could be growing at around a nearly 5 percent annual clip this quarter. But if the current economic vigor is only reflecting a short-term stimulus coming from the Trump administration’s tax cut, then some kind of slowdown is to be expected.

“It’s very hard to see what’s going to goose the economy further from these levels,” Ms. Gibbs said.

And the financial markets can sometimes sniff out problems with the economy before they show up in the official economic snapshots published on G.D.P. and unemployment. Another notable yield curve inversion occurred in February 2000, just before the stock market’s dot-com bubble burst.

In that sense, the government bond market isn’t alone. Stocks have been in a sideways struggle since the Standard & Poor’s 500 last peaked on Jan. 26. Returns on corporate bonds are negative, as are some key commodities tied to industrial activity.

An important caveat to the predictive power of the yield curve is that it can’t predict precisely when a recession will begin. In the past the recession has come in as little as six months, or as long as two years after the inversion, the San Francisco Fed’s researchers note.

Bayeux Tapestry of Haley’s Comet dates to some time after the Norman Invasion in the 11th century

Oh, and the weird artwork is all stuff related to comprehending ancient omens from the Greeks to the Aztecs to the old Europe. Just in case you wanted to know.

I put up the link to a crazy Washington Examiner bit in the tweet below. Trump and his team of NOT.ONE.REAL.ECONOMISTS. create more fairy tales from Dust. Here’s bull shit from a man that can’t even do high school statistics.

“The U.S. economy is the fastest-growing economy virtually in the whole world,” said Moore, the distinguished visiting fellow with the Project for Economic Growth at the Heritage Foundation. He predicted that when everything is factored in, second-quarter growth will come in just shy of that. He said, “4.5 percent is very plausible for the second quarter, which is a gigantic number.”

He also predicted that the stock market will continue its bullish ways, ignoring naysayers who say that the shallow but long U.S. recovery is about to fade.

“We really haven’t had a recovery,” said Moore, who added, “The economy isn’t running out of gas, it is just starting to rev up.”

That’s a pretty good example of being self-serving and delusional at the same time.

Trump’s policies are basically huge booby traps.

The escalating trade battle between the U.S. and the rest of the world is raising the risk of a meaningful slowing in an otherwise vibrant American economy.

While the tariffs already in place and set to be implemented will barely dent U.S. growth, economists say the panoply of additional measures being considered would take a perceptible bite out of gross domestic product if they go ahead.

“It’s going to be more noticeably painful,” said Peter Hooper, chief economist at Deutsche Bank AG in New York.

Hooper, who expects the economy to expand 3 percent this year, said the steps already taken or in the works would clip just 0.1 percentage point off GDP growth.

Throw in President Donald Trump’s threat to slap a 10 percent tariff on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports and a 20 percent levy on car shipments from the European Union and the impact grows to 0.3 point to 0.4 point, he said. And the fallout could even be greater if heightened tensions begin to infect consumer, business and investor confidence,

Here are more impacts from bad policy: “Here’s how Trump’s tax law is raising health insurance premiums

Approximately six months ago, Congress passed a tax law designed to benefit corporations and the wealthy while repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty.

Today, we’re already seeing the consequences: Premiums in the individual market are rising, often by double digits. As more and more states hit their deadlines for insurers to file preliminary premium rates, the headlines tell the same story, with average premiums going up by 30 percent in Maryland, 19 percent in Washington, and 24 percent in New York.

This is no surprise — and no accident. The repeal of the mandate penalty was the latest in a long line of actions that the Trump administration has taken to deliberately undermine the ACA marketplaces.
President Trump himself has not exactly been subtle about this, remarking last year that “the best thing we can do politically speaking is let ObamaCare explode.” Similarly, former White House advisor Steve Bannon exclaimed, “That’s going to blow that thing up — gonna blow those exchanges up, right?” when describing Trump’s decision to cancel ACA cost-sharing payments last year.

Congress knew in advance that the individual mandate played an important role in stabilizing the market, and that repealing the mandate penalty would cause premiums to go up. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing the mandate penalty would increase individual market premiums by 10 percent on average in 2019.

In fact, Trump’s own former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, recently admitted that the repeal “actually will harm the pool in the exchange market because you’ll likely have individuals who are younger and healthier not participating in that market, and consequently that drives up the cost for other folks in that market.”

Lunar eclipse in ancient Rome

From the American Prospect: “Raises and Bonuses: The PR Fraud”

The only problem with the positive new perspective on the GOP tax law created by the flurry of bonus announcements is that it’s wrong. Pelosi was right. While anyone less wealthy than Trump and his cabinet would find an unexpected bonus of $1,000 a welcome surprise, the bonuses were—relatively speaking and in the proper context—crumbs. And they’re crumbs that few workers are actually receiving.

The only way to have figured this out was to cut through the hype and look at the numbers. Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) did just that, creating a master database documenting bonuses, wage hikes, tax savings, stock buybacks, layoffs, and a half-dozen other indicators of the impact of the Tax Act on business fortunes and behavior. Unlike the simple lists of cheery corporate news collected by Americans for Tax Reform and several other tax-cut boosters, ATF’s presentation is an entire searchable website that makes it easy to compare who—among corporations, their shareholders, and their workers—is actually getting how much.

This is a really long read about both the politics and the sham but it’s worth your time.

Beyond this initial audience of one lay the harder-to-convince American people. And despite the vigor of the corporate public relations campaign meant to woo them, it wasn’t difficult to see it was all an act.

One tip-off was the timing. The rush to distribute bonuses at the end of the year was timed so corporations could write them off at the old, higher tax rate: Employee expenses incurred in 2017 and even into early 2018 could still be deducted against a 35 percent tax rate, more valuable than the 21 percent deduction available under the new law. (Fiscal-year filers could exploit this same tax arbitrage even later in the year, but the advantage wanes the deeper you get into 2018.)

That diminishing tax advantage is one reason the seeming flood of announcements over the winter slowed to a trickle by the spring.

Another signal that we had not in fact reached a new era of broadly shared prosperity was that the vast majority of payouts were one-time bonuses, not permanent wage hikes. More than twice as many workers are getting bonuses as are getting raises. It’s far easier for corporations to withhold future bonuses than to cut their workers’ wages.

The Bean Nighee

So, these one shot blow your wad kind of things just lead to what we’re seeing now. The economy is getting a short term blast of amphetamine. It’s something the Fed won’t allow because these things turn into inflation. The tariffs are essentially tax increases too. The overproduction of agricultural goods that can’t find a market right now will turn into shortages, higher final prices, and failed businesses next season.

The bizarre thing is that the staff of real economists for the CEA are contradicting the Administration’s public narrative. They can do math. But they still spin crap.

A White House economic analysis of President Trump’s trade agenda has concluded that Mr. Trump’s tariffs will hurt economic growth in the United States, according to several people familiar with the research.

The findings from the White House Council of Economic Advisers have been circulated only internally and not publicly released, as is often the case with the council’s work, making the exact economic projections unknown. But the determination comes as top White House officials continue to insist publicly that Mr. Trump’s trade approach will be “massively good for the U.S. economy.”

The chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Kevin Hassett, an economist who came to the administration from the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, dodged questions at a White House briefing on Tuesday about whether tariffs would hurt an economy that has accelerated during Mr. Trump’s tenure.

Asked whether the administration’s economists had modeled the impact that a trade war with China would have on the United States economy, Mr. Hassett said Mr. Trump was a great negotiator who would persuade other countries to open their markets to American products.

I’ll end with this.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?