Posted: October 4, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Fiscal Cliff, Tax Evasion and offshore banking, The Bonus Class, U.S. Economy
The Opening up of Pandora’s box, Frederick Stuart Church, 1885
Good Day Sky Dancers!
I’m going to go down a rabbit hole today on findings by journalists on a trove of leaked financial information that shows the financial dealings of current and former world leaders in terms of hiding the loot in the world’s Treasure Islands.
Offshore banking has always frustrated many governments in trying to deal with how the rich and powerful hide wealth. This is from The Guardian on what’s being called the Pandora Papers. There’s an accompanying podcast if you’d rather learn about this important trove of leaked offshore papers. These leaks follow the Panama and Paradise papers leaks.
The financial secrets of some of the world’s most rich and powerful people are revealed following one of the biggest leaks of offshore data. The Pandora papers include 35 current and former world leaders and more than 300 public officials.
The Guardian’s Paul Lewis tells Michael Safi how the project came about and the months of work his investigations team has put into the publication. It is the latest offshore leak following previous global journalistic collaborations on the Panama papers and the Paradise papers.
The Guardian’s deputy business editor, Juliette Garside,explains how former British colonial territories have in recent decades used their legal jurisdictions to attract companies and wealthy individuals to register with them as tax havens.
The editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, tells Michael that there is a clear public interest in publishing this latest investigation and revealing the secrets of prominent politicians at a time when many governments are raising taxes to fund pandemic recovery efforts.
‘Pandora’s Box’ by Rene Magritte 1951
The Washington Post reports the names and country affiliations of those caught in the leak. It includes Putin and many of his minions, the President of Kenya, and the King of Jordan. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis was also caught up in the investigations. This is the lede: “Governments launch investigations after secret papers show how elite shield riches.” The link is constantly updated with new revelations and responses.
Here’s what we know from our collective reporting
Pandora, c. 1914 (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Odilon Redon
There are short profiles of many of the leaders/elite and their offshore financial activities at the WAPO link. There are also several good links to basics on offshore banking and the small countries around the world that sponsor this very dark corner of the financial sector.
I’ve written about offshore “treasure islands” before as it tickles just about all my Nancy Drew and Financial Economist/Banker fancies. My last post came in 2016 when the Panama Papers were leaked. These leaks do pop up but the dynamics of the system are linked to political and political funding elites. It’s hard to get countries to move on the tax evaders and the public treasury looters. As you can see from the names, many are either doing this or getting money from those who use offshore banking.
CNN analysts believe the Jordan, Pakistan and, Russia releases are most significant. Former UK PM Tony Blair has also been named in the release.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie Blair, avoided paying £312,000 ($423,000) in stamp duty — a tax on property purchases — when they bought a townhouse in London, the BBC reported. The building now houses Cherie Blair’s law firm.
The Blairs purchased the townhouse in 2017 by buying the offshore firm that owned the property. When the property was put up for sale, its ultimate owners were a family with political connections in Bahrain, according to the BBC.
The Blairs set up a UK company to purchase the offshore firm. Doing so was legal, but it allowed them to avoid paying stamp duty, according to the BBC, because the tax is not charged when a company owning a property is acquired.
“It is not unusual for a commercial office building to be held in a corporate vehicle or for vendors of such property not to want to dispose of the property separately,” Cherie Blair told the BBC.
Cherie Blair also said her husband’s only involvement in the transaction was that the mortgage for the property used their joint income and capital, according to the BBC.
“All the arrangements were made for the express purpose of bringing the company and the building back into the UK tax and regulatory regime, where it has remained ever since. All taxes have been paid ever since and all accounts openly filed in accordance with the law,” Cherie Blair said, according to The Guardian.
It may not be illegal but it certainly sounds and appears dodgy. The real shocking thing is that these kinds of enterprises are setting up in the United States. Notice this little financial firm harkens from South Dakota a state that lured Citibank with its lax banking laws back in the good ol’ days. WAPO has just put up a more current analysis of the overall use of offshore banking. “FOREIGN MONEY SECRETLY FLOODS U.S. TAX-HAVENS. SOME OF IT IS TAINTED.”
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Across from a Holiday Inn, in a red-brick building with a welcome sign that reads “The Heart of America,” a little-known financial firm set up shop seven years ago and extended an invitation to the world’s elite.
Trident Trust promised to protect the fortunes and privacy of its new customers by relying on the laws of a state that had become a global destination for wealth. The company called it “The South Dakota Advantage.”
Among those who answered the call: a Colombian textile magnate caught in a scheme to launder the proceeds of an international drug ring, an orange juice mogul who settled with authorities in Brazil for allegedly colluding to underpay local farmers, and family members of the former president of a sugar producer in the Dominican Republic that has been accused of exploiting laborers and forcibly evicting families from their homes.
The U.S. government has long condemned prominent offshore financial centers, where liberal rules and guarantees of discretion have drawn oligarchs, business tycoons and politicians.
But a burgeoning American trust industry is increasingly sheltering the assets of international millionaires and billionaires by promising levels of protection and secrecy that rival or surpass those offered in overseas tax havens. That shield, which is near-absolute, has insulated the industry from meaningful oversight and allowed it to forge new footholds in U.S. states.
Paging Senator Elizabeth Warren! Clean-up in Aisle South Dakota! And of course, Delaware is also one of the usual suspects too. Just ask Senator MBNA (aka President Joe Biden).
The trust documents come mostly from the Sioux Falls office of Trident Trust, a global provider of offshore services. In a written statement, Trident said it is committed to compliance with all applicable regulations and routinely cooperates with authorities. The company declined to answer questions about its clients.
Other states competing to lure wealth include Alaska, Delaware, Nevada and New Hampshire. In South Dakota, assets in trusts more than quadrupled over the past decade to $360 billion. One of the largest trust companies in the state, the South Dakota Trust Co., boasts a roster of international clients from 54 countries.
The industry’s rapid expansion was led by a group of trust company insiders, who year after year pitched legislative proposals that were highly appealing to customers in the United States and abroad: protecting trusts from creditors, from taxing authorities, from foreign governments.
With little opposition, state legislators turned the proposals into laws — dozens since the late 1990s.
So, not only are we giving these folks lower tax bills than their house staff and employees, we’re letting them dodge even more tax liabilities by just traveling to the usual suspect states.
You may read the original work in the tweet directly above. It’s going to be a week of global intrigue! So, hang on to your best James Bond Villian impression. Mine will continue to be Vladimir Putin who set up a mistress and child to live like Marie Antoinette.
The Debt Ceiling is still in the news too!
Either of these stories could rock the US and Global financial markets! So, I’ll be watching! C’mon Joe! Don’t make me sell the US short to finance my senior days!
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951) This painting was featured in the movie of that name. It plagiarizes the early metaphysical style of Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978)
Biden did take McConnell to school today. This is from the LA Times.
President Biden on Monday criticized Republicans for not voting to raise the debt ceiling, accusing them of being “reckless and dangerous” in a way that could harm the economy.
“Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, they’re threatening to use [the filibuster] to prevent us from doing our job — saving the economy from a catastrophic event,” Biden said during a speech at the White House.
The Democrat-controlled House last week passed legislation that temporarily suspends the debt ceiling. Senate Republicans, however, have said they will not vote to approve such a measure. Biden said the Republicans’ stance is “hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful.”
“Especially as we’re clawing our way out of this pandemic,” Biden said.
Once the Treasury Department runs out of cash, payments to government workers, including military personnel, veterans and Social Security recipients would likely be delayed. A default would also affect taxpayers.
“Savings in your pocketbook could be directly impacted by this Republican stunt,” Biden said.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen previously said the department would run out of “emergency measures” to pay the nation’s debts on Oct. 18. The limit on federal borrowing is currently $28.4 trillion.
McConnell told Biden to find a Democratic Party-based solution in a Dear Joe letter. So, there’s your countdown to doomsday. This is from Politico.
“I respectfully submit that it is time for you to engage directly with congressional Democrats on this matter,” McConnell told Biden in his letter, a copy of which POLITICO obtained. “Your lieutenants in Congress must understand that you do not want your unified Democratic government to sleepwalk toward an avoidable catastrophe when they have had nearly three months’ notice to do their job.”
The letter, delivered to the White House on Monday, also cites Biden’s past opposition to debt increases while in the minority. McConnell summarized it this way: “The president’s party had to take responsibility for a policy agenda which you opposed. Your view then is our view now.”
So, Republicans continue to obfuscate the debt ceiling. It’s basically got to be increased because of the last 4 years and all years before. There’s very little Biden spending to this point and his budget is not even in effect at this point.
Don’t let your eyes glaze over on this stuff! This is a shit list of how they’re stealing from us!
What’s on your reading and global intrigue list today?
Posted: January 16, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, anonymous, The Bonus Class | Tags: RESIST
Today is the day to think about the sacrifices that were made by Civil Rights leaders and activists under the leadership of Nobel Peace Prize winner Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Today is the day we celebrate his birthday and the struggle that committed our country to fully addressing the promise of equality for all of us including those Black Americans who built this great nation under the yoke of slavery and the oppression of Jim Crow. #BLACKLIVESMATTER
I want to share this op ed written in WAPO by Michael Gerson today on why the attack on Congressman Lewis on the eve of our celebration of King’s birthday and legacy is “the essence of narcissism”. Gerson correctly characterizes Trump’s problem as
“Trump seems to have no feel for, no interest in, the American story he is about to enter. He will lead a nation that accommodated a cruel exception to its founding creed; that bled and nearly died to recover its ideals; and that was only fully redeemed by the courage and moral clarity of the very people it had oppressed. People like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. People like John Lewis.”
Trump has no appreciation for our roots as a nation and the sacrifice made by many men and women to bring it to where it is today. Many of us had ancestors who did not make these sacrifices on their own terms or with consent or with recognition of their humanity which is an extremely important history to embrace. This includes the endless humiliation and suffering of slaves and the atrocities committed against indigenous peoples. It includes not extending the vote to woman until quite recently. It includes not recognizing the dignity of all forms of love and being. We’ve struggled to get here and we struggle still. Understanding the roads of our shared history is something we ask of our leaders. This shallow man who doesn’t read or appear to learn much of anything at all is preoccupied with himself alone.
A broader conception of the American story — a respect for the heroes and ghosts of our history — is absent in Trump’s public voice. He seems to be in the thrall of an eternal now. To some, the whole idea of a historical imagination will sound nebulous. Abraham Lincoln called it the “mystic chords of memory.” He hung his hopes for unity on the existence of a shared national experience that transcended regional differences. Today our divisions are more along lines of class and culture, but we also need to hear our story as one people.
Not every citizen shares this sense of history. It is a minority of Americans who visit Antietam and feel oppressed by the immense weight of collective death; or go to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis and feel sickened by the scale of such a loss; or walk across that bridge in Selma and hear the echoes of snarling dogs and nightsticks against bone.
But we need a president who respects and evokes this story — or at least does not peevishly attack its heroes.
Shepard Fairey has painted the faces of the Resistance that starts in earnest this weekend with the Woman’s March on Washington . The faces of resistance grace today’s post along with the man who must be our role model for change.
Shepard has created three portraits for the campaign; two other artists, Colombian American muralist Jessica Sabogal and and Chicano graphic artist Ernesto Yerena, have each made one more. Together, they hope the faces of “We the People” — standing in for traditionally marginalized groups or those specifically targeted during Trump’s presidential campaign — will flood Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day.
Fairey is collaborating with the Amplifier Foundation, a nonprofit that works to amplify grassroots movements and which commissioned the project. After learning that large-sized signs were prohibited at Inauguration, Amplifier came up with a hack to distribute the posters. Their plan: to buy full-page ads in the Washington Post on Jan. 20 that feature the “We the People” images, which can be torn out and carried as placards, or hung and posted around town. The posters will also be distributed at metro stops, from moving vans and other drop spots on Inauguration Day, as well as posted online for free download. A Kickstarter campaign for “We the People” has raised more than $148,000 since it was launched Tuesday night.
Today, his future press secretary has done the same thing that White House Mommy has said. Do not be mean to Kremlin Caligula with the implication that some Russian Goon will visit us with brass knuckles if we continue not to accept his mocking of the disabled, his horrible treatment of Gold Star Parents who are Muslim and immigrants, his history of serial sexual assault and degradation of women and his fixation with SNL. The talk is that the White House Press will be sent to some far off administration building and out of their newly built offices in the White House. Spicer wants Acosta and CNN to apologize for not treating the Toddler headed to the White House like an adult capable of answering questions germane to his job.
We’re about to become the anathema of the free world. Interviews with Hair Furor have set off shivers from our allies. Here’s some analysis from Martin Longman writing for Washington Monthly.
If Donald Trump has the goal of destroying American power, breaking up the European Union, dismantling NATO, lifting Russian sanctions, and helping to elect a bunch of Russian-aligned far right fascist parties in Western Europe, at least he’s willing to tell us exactly that. There’s very little subtlety about it at this point, and the only fig leaf he’s going to offer is the prospect that Putin will agree to some kind of reduction in our respective nuclear arsenals.
Is that a fair trade?
I don’t think so.
Donald Trump called NATO obsolete, predicted that other European Union members would follow the U.K. in leaving the bloc…
…Trump predicted that Britain’s exit from the EU will be a success and portrayed the EU as an instrument of German domination designed with the purpose of beating the U.S. in international trade. For that reason, Trump said, he’s fairly indifferent to whether the EU stays together, according to Bild…
…The Times quoted Trump as saying he was interested in making “good deals with Russia,” floating the idea of lifting sanctions…
“…[NATO is] obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago,” Trump said in the Bild version of the interview. “Secondly, countries aren’t paying what they should” and NATO “didn’t deal with terrorism.” The Times quoted Trump saying that only five NATO members are paying their fair share…
…With Merkel facing an unprecedented challenge from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany as she seeks a fourth term this fall, Trump was asked whether he’d like to see her re-elected. He said he couldn’t say, adding that while he respects Merkel, who’s been in office for 11 years, he doesn’t know her and she has hurt Germany by letting “all these illegals” into the country.
Since when are Syrian refugees allowed into a country for the purpose of asylum “illegals”? NATO obsolete? Where the hell is this mad man taking us? Hey you … you’ve under an asterisk next to your name as president* the same way pumped up druggie athletes get one.
How long can our institutions endure these assaults? Trumps appointments are as compromised as he is and they’re all freaking crooks.
Here’s the latest in the ethics issues that we’re told aren’t happening/don’t exist.
A multi-million dollar expansion of President-elect Donald Trump’s golf resort in Scotland is reportedly underway just days after his attorneys said no new foreign deals would be made.
Expansion plans for the Trump International Golf Course Scotland in Aberdeenshire include a second 18-hole golf course and a new 450-room five-star hotel, timeshare complex and private housing estate, The Guardian reported Saturday.
Trump officials claim the venture does not conflict with the president-elect’s promise not to pursue new or “pending deals” during his presidency to avoid any conflicts of interest.
So, here’s something interesting. Anonymous is going after Trump.
The exchange began with Anonymous repeating accusations from sources that Trump has deep “financial and personal ties with Russian mobsters, child traffickers, and money launderers.”
The group’s twitter feed read worthy if you want to see every piece of dirt any one has ever dug up on the guy to date. I’m sure the hacktivists are working on more.
So, I’m still laying low and trying to figure things out. I’m looking into something that could me to an acreage on an island in the Puget Sound and it has lots of little cabins on it among other interesting things. I’m wondering how much brave I have left in these old bones.
I’m going to the NOLA protest activities on Friday. Maybe that will inspire me.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: May 24, 2014 Filed under: Gun Control, income inequality, morning reads, racism, The Bonus Class, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Chris Giles, Donald Sterling, economic theory, Financial Times., guns, inequality, Kevin Drum, LA Clippers, mass murder, mass shootings, NBA, offshore tax havens, open carry laws, Paul Krugman, Reinhart and Rogoff, Shelly Sterling, Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations, The Economist, Thomas Picketty, wealth distribution, wealth vs. income
Have a Stupendous Saturday!
It’s too bad Dakinikat is so busy today, because there’s an economics food fight brewing. Perhaps she’ll still find time to comment on the controversy later the evening after she returns home with her newly adopted canine family member, Temple. Meanwhile, I’ll do my best to describe the dispute over Thomas Picketty’s conclusions about wealth inequality, published in his book Capital in the Twenty-first Century.
At the Financial Times, Economics Editor Chris Giles has claims to have found problems with Picketty’s work: Piketty findings undercut by errors.
Thomas Piketty’s book, ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’, has been the publishing sensation of the year. Its thesis of rising inequality tapped into the zeitgeist and electrified the post-financial crisis public policy debate.
But, according to a Financial Times investigation, the rock-star French economist appears to have got his sums wrong.
The data underpinning Professor Piketty’s 577-page tome, which has dominated best-seller lists in recent weeks, contain a series of errors that skew his findings. The FT found mistakes and unexplained entries in his spreadsheets, similar to those which last year undermined the work on public debt and growth of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.
The central theme of Prof Piketty’s work is that wealth inequalities are heading back up to levels last seen before the first world war. The investigation undercuts this claim, indicating there is little evidence in Prof Piketty’s original sources to bear out the thesis that an increasing share of total wealth is held by the richest few.
Prof Piketty, 43, provides detailed sourcing for his estimates of wealth inequality in Europe and the US over the past 200 years. In his spreadsheets, however, there are transcription errors from the original sources and incorrect formulas. It also appears that some of the data are cherry-picked or constructed without an original source.
John Maynard Keynes
In one specific example, Giles says the corrected data do not show significant growth in Europe since 1970. In a second article, Giles goes into more detail. In addition, he argues that the U.S. data doesn’t support the conclusion that a greater proportion of the wealth is controlled by top 1% than in recent decades. He does admit to the top 10% controlling a greater share of wealth than previously.
An investigation by the Financial Times, however, has revealed many unexplained data entries and errors in the figures underlying some of the book’s key charts.
These are sufficiently serious to undermine Prof Piketty’s claim that the share of wealth owned by the richest in society has been rising and “the reason why wealth today is not as unequally distributed as in the past is simply that not enough time has passed since 1945”.
After referring back to the original data sources, the investigation found numerous mistakes in Prof Piketty’s work: simple fat-finger errors of transcription; suboptimal averaging techniques; multiple unexplained adjustments to the numbers; data entries with no sourcing, unexplained use of different time periods and inconsistent uses of source data….
A second class of problems relates to unexplained alterations of the original source data. Prof Piketty adjusts his own French data on wealth inequality at death to obtain inequality among the living. However, he used a larger adjustment scale for 1910 than for all the other years, without explaining why.
In the UK data, instead of using his source for the wealth of the top 10 per cent population during the 19th century, Prof Piketty inexplicably adds 26 percentage points to the wealth share of the top 1 per cent for 1870 and 28 percentage points for 1810.
A third problem is that when averaging different countries to estimate wealth in Europe, Prof Piketty gives the same weight to Sweden as to France and the UK – even though it only has one-seventh of the population.
Get even more detail and charts here: Data problems with Capital in the 21st Century.
The Pushback So Far:
Paul Krugman: Is Piketty All Wrong?
Great buzz in the blogosphere over Chris Giles’s attack on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. Giles finds a few clear errors, although they don’t seem to matter much; more important, he questions some of the assumptions and imputations Piketty uses to deal with gaps in the data and the way he switches sources. Neil Irwin and Justin Wolfers have good discussions of the complaints; Piketty will have to answer these questions in detail, and we’ll see how well he does it.
Krugman suggests that Giles may be doing something wrong.
I don’t know the European evidence too well, but the notion of stable wealth concentration in the United States is at odds with many sources of evidence. Take, for example, the landmark CBO study on the distribution of income; it shows the distribution of income by type, and capital income has become much more concentrated over time:
It’s just not plausible that this increase in the concentration of income from capital doesn’t reflect a more or less comparable increase in the concentration of capital itself….
And there’s also the economic story. In the United States, income inequality has soared since 1980 by any measure you use. Unless the affluent starting saving less than the working class, this rise in income disparity must have led to a rise in wealth disparity over time.
At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum notes that
Giles’ objections are mostly to the data regarding increases in wealth inequality over the past few decades, and the funny thing is that even Piketty never claims that this has changed dramatically. The end result of Giles’ re-analysis of Piketty’s data is [below] with Piketty in blue and Giles in red. As you can see, Piketty estimates a very small increase since 1970.
R.A. at The Economist: A Piketty problem?
Mr Giles’s analysis is impressive, and one certainly hopes that further work by Mr Giles, Mr Piketty or others will clarify whether mistakes have been made, how they came to be introduced and what their effects are. Based on the information Mr Giles has provided so far, however, the analysis does not seem to support many of the allegations made by the FT, or the conclusion that the book’s argument is wrong.
There are four important questions raised by the FT‘s work. First, which data are wrong? Second, how did errors in the work, if they are errors, come to be introduced? Third, how do the errors affect the specific points made in the relevant chapters? And fourth, how do the errors affect the fundamental conclusions of the book?
Mr Giles focuses on wealth inequality, to which Mr Piketty turns in Chapter 10 of his book. Mr Piketty has not published nearly as much research on the question of wealth inequality, and it seems that much of the analysis in Chapter 10 was done specifically for the book, based on others’ research. Mr Piketty’s wealth-inequality analysis certainly matters as a component of the book’s argument, but it is not accurate to say, as Mr Giles does, that the results in Chapter 10 constitute the “central theme” of the book.
Are the data wrong? Mr Giles identifies discrepancies between source material cited by Mr Piketty and the figures that appear in the book. He identifies cases in which Mr Piketty appears to have chosen to use data from one source when another would have made more sense. Further, the calculations in Mr Piketty’s spreadsheets (which have been available online since the book’s publication) seem to include adjustments in the data that are not adequately explained, and some figures for which Mr Giles cannot find a documented source. Finally, Mr Piketty has made choices concerning weighting of data used in averages, and assigning of data from one year (1935, for example) to another (1930) when such assignments seem unnecessary or inadvisable.
The author concludes that, unfortunately, ideology will determine how many people respond to the Giles critique. Much more extensive analysis at the link.
Here is Picketty’s–presumably preliminary–response to Giles in a letter to the Financial Times:
Let me also say that I certainly agree that available data sources on wealth are much less systematic than for income. In fact, one of the main reasons why I am in favor of wealth taxation and automatic exchange of bank information is that this would be a way to develop more financial transparency and more reliable sources of information on wealth dynamics (even if the tax was charged at very low rates, which you might agree with).
For the time being, we have to do with what we have, that is, a very diverse and heterogeneous set of data sources on wealth: historical inheritance declarations and estate tax statistics, scarce property and wealth tax data, and household surveys with self-reported data on wealth (with typically a lot of under-reporting at the top). As I make clear in the book, in the on-line appendix, and in the many technical papers I have published on this topic, one needs to make a number of adjustments to the raw data sources so as to make them more homogenous over time and across countries. I have tried in the context of this book to make the most justified choices and arbitrages about data sources and adjustments. I have no doubt that my historical data series can be improved and will be improved in the future (this is why I put everything on line). In fact, the “World Top Incomes Database” (WTID) is set to become a “World Wealth and Income Database” in the coming years, and we will put on-line updated estimates covering more countries. But I would be very surprised if any of the substantive conclusion about the long run evolution of wealth distributions was much affected by these improvements.
I thought this was important:
…my estimates on wealth concentration do not fully take into account offshore wealth, and are likely to err on the low side. I am certainly not trying to make the picture look darker than it it. As I make clear in chapter 12 of my book (see in particular table 12.1-12.2), top wealth holders have apparently been rising a lot faster average wealth in recent decades, at least according to the wealth rankings published in magazines such as Forbes. This is true not only in the US, but also in Britain and at the global level (see attached table). This is not well taken into account by wealth surveys and official statistics, including the recent statistics that were published for Britain. Of course, as I make clear in my book, wealth rankings published by magazines are far from being a perfectly reliable data source. But for the time being, this is what we have, and what we have suggests that the concentration of wealth at the top is rising pretty much everywhere.
In Other News:
There has been a mass shooting in Southern California–this time perpetrated from behind the wheel of a car. From the LA Times, 7 dead in drive-by shooting near UC Santa Barbara.
The shootings began about 9:30 p.m., a sheriff’s spokeswoman told KEYT-TV. It wasn’t clear what the attacker’s motivation might have been.
An 18-year-old Newport Beach man who was visiting Santa Barbara described a confusing scene as the shots rang out.
Nikolaus Becker was eating outside The Habit, 888 Embarcadero Del Norte, near the scene when the first set of shots was fired about 9:30 p.m. At first he thought it was firecrackers. A group of three to five police officers who were nearby started to casually walk toward the sounds, said Becker, but ran when a second round of shots broke out.
“That’s when they yelled at us to get inside and take cover,” Becker said.
The BMW took a sharp turn in front of The Habit, Becker said, and moments later a third round of shots was heard. Becker and his friends moved toward the restaurant’s kitchen but were told to wait in the seating area by employees.
He estimates there were at least 13 to 15 shots total at three locations. The locations were about 100 yards from one another.
The shooter, whose motivation is unknown, was found dead in his BMW. It’s not yet clear if he shot himself or was killed by sheriff’s deputies.
In another gun-related story, TPM reports that some gun nuts are reconsidering their campaign of carrying long guns into public places: Scaring The Crap Out of People Oddly Not Winning Fans.
Earlier this week we reported how Chipotle felt obliged to ask its customers not to bring guns to chipotle restaurants. Seems like a reasonably enough request to most of us. And it’s been preceded by similar requests by various other chains like Starbucks and others.
Now the top pro-gun group in Texas pushing the demand for “open carry” firearm rights and trying to get people to show up at various restaurant chains with long guns is deciding it may not be such a hot idea after all.
Open Carry Texas and a group of other aggressive gun rights groups have issued a joint statement telling their members, Dudes, let’s stop taking our guns to restaurants. It’s freaking people out and making them hate us.
Read the full statement at TPM.
Soon-to-be former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling has signed over the team to his wife and wants her to negotiate the sale.
Shelly Sterling, who previously shared ownership of the beleaguered NBA franchise with her estranged husband, is now in talks with the NBA over selling the team, the source said.
The NBA banned Donald Sterling for life from all league events after an audio tape became public that caught him on tape uttering racist comments to his assistant V. Stiviano. He told her not to post photos of herself with black people on Instagram — such as Magic Johnson — or bring them to his basketball games.
But the NBA isn’t buying it. From ESPN: Why the NBA won’t allow Shelly Sterling to control the Clippers.
At first glance, Donald Sterling’s gesture may seem like serendipitous news for the NBA. Taking him at his word, Donald Sterling has agreed to leave the league without a fight and has signed off on the sale of his team. Digging deeper, however, reveals possible ulterior motives on Sterling’s part to delay and potentially block the sale of the team. Do not forget a crucial point: capital gain taxes. As first reported by SI.com, the Sterlings have significant incentives under capital gain tax law to avoid the sale of the team and keep it in the Sterling family. Doing so, would save them hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, contrary to some reports, the Sterlings are unlikely to benefit from the “involuntary conversion” tax avoidance provision of the Internal Revenue Code. The bottom line is if the Sterlings have to sell the Clippers, they will probably pay hundreds of millions in state and federal taxes.
Along those lines, Donald Sterling’s proposed maneuver does not accomplish the NBA’s goal of ousting the entire Sterling family on June 3. As explained in a previous SI.com article, the NBA interprets its constitution to mean that ousting Donald Sterling on June 3 would also automatically oust Shelly Sterling as co-owner, with the Clippers then falling under the control of commissioner Adam Silver. Donald Sterling’s proposed maneuver risks the prospect of Shelly Sterling undertaking a slow-moving effort to sell the team. A sale process that takes months or years would clearly aggravate the NBA, which wants to erase the Sterling family name from the league as quickly as possible. A protracted sale of the Clippers by Shelly Sterling might also constitute a potential rationale for players to boycott NBA games.
Even of greater risk to the NBA, what is to stop Shelly Sterling from deciding to keep the Clippers? She could plausibly reason, on various grounds, that now is not the right time to sell the team. Also, her instruction from her husband to sell the team would not be legally binding; it would be a mere suggestion the moment she takes over the team.
Read much more at the link.
I’ll end with a long article that I haven’t gotten to yet, but I’m hearing it’s a must read: The Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic. Here’s the tagline:
“Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”
The Guardian: The ‘Case for Reparations’ is solid, and it’s long past time to make them.
Slate: An Ingenious and Powerful Case for Reparations.
The Wire: You Should Read “The Case for Reparations.”
NPR: How To Tell Who Hasn’t Read The New ‘Atlantic’ Cover Story.
WaPo: Culture change and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ‘The Case For Reparations’.
What else is happening? As always, please post your links in the comment thread.
Posted: September 18, 2013 Filed under: Fiscal Cliff, right wing hate grouups, Rush Limbaugh, The Bonus Class, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: budget woes, fiscal cliff, SNAP
Some time during the Reagan campaign, our government became the enemy of a huge number of people in this country. Paranoia over a democratically elected government enshrined by voters and a sophisticated legal and political system is usually confined to a groups of paramilitary paranoids that call themselves preppers, read too much Ayn Rand, and never emotionally develop beyond, say high school. Through the money of the Koch Brothers, the pulpit connivings of Pat Robertson and the paranoid shrieking of folks like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh that have failed at every endeavor but snake oil peddling on the radio, we now have entire sections of the country that gerrymander legislators to send these freaks to Congress.
Take Texas. Please.
Perry and like-minded Republican governors subscribe to the slash-and-burn economic philosophy — a belief that “less” will somehow become “more.” In Texas, he has implemented this vision with gusto, cutting taxes and slashing funding for critical middle-class priorities such as public schools, higher education, health care and infrastructure. The results? Texas ranks 49th in high school graduation, 10th in the rate of poverty and 50th in the percent of residents with even basic health insurance.
And while Perry likes to promote the job creation in Texas during his time in office, he leaves out a critical point: The jobs “miracle” he touts is driven by low-paying, non-sustainable jobs. This year, Texas — tied with Mississippi — leads the nation for the percentage of hourly paid workers earning equal to or less than the minimum wage. More than one in 10 workers nationwide earning at or below the minimum wage works in Texas.
Let’s not even go into the social costs of letting Texas businesses operate however they want to. Just ask the towns and farms that no longer have water and are nsubjected to earthquakes due to fracking. We can also mention the town that mostly disappeared from a fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people. Wait until Texas property owners and taxpayers get the bills for those kinds of preventable disasters. I’m fairly certain that northern Texas will soon be paying more for water than the world will pay for its oil. In fact, I’ll stake all my years drawing supply and demand graph on it.
Then, there is a new kick-the-can down the road effort on the 2013 Farm Bill that’s going to leave a lot of American children starving. Republican members of Congress appear to still think that folks live large off of Food Stamps. It’s the old untrue Welfare Queen canard peddled by Reagan back in the 1980s come back to haunt us.
An extension does not solve problems. Congress is currently engaged in a philosophical debate about federal nutrition programs, namely, the farm bill’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Some members of Congress believe the program and its current level of benefits and eligibility requirements are appropriate, particularly in this challenging economic time. Others erroneously believe the program is fraught with waste, fraud and abuse and want to cut funding and benefits to vulnerable families.
Regardless of where one falls on this issue, it is clear that an extension of the current farm bill is inadequate from both perspectives. Members wanting to preserve existing funding for this vital safety net program should welcome the long-term policy certainty provided by a five-year comprehensive bill, rather than leaving SNAP vulnerable to cuts year after year. And members interested in cutting funding from SNAP won’t achieve any of the so-called reforms they desire without the passage of a new five-year bill; an extension merely perpetuates the status quo.
Rather than waste time on a nutrition-only bill to be brought up in the House next week that would leave between 4 and 6 million Americans ineligible for full SNAP benefits, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or pass an extension that merely kicks the can down the road, Congress must instead preserve the historic coalition between farmers and consumers in need and pass a comprehensive five-year farm bill that includes both farm and nutrition programs.
Then, here we go again on shutting down the budget process, a debt ceiling increase, and vital services over providing more health care to individuals through the Affordable Health Care Act. Once again, I remind every one that this act is basically the Heritage Institute Plan of the 1990s. It was the Republican answer to “HillaryCare”. How far down the path of slash and burn have we gone that today’s Republican’s reject their “conservative” plan of less than 20 years ago? Here’s an argument for a shutdown.
I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that a government shutdown may be the only way to deal with the coming budget bedlam and #cliffgate.
Let’s start by reviewing the situation.
- As of today there are less than two weeks before fiscal 2014 begins.
- None of the FY14 appropriations have been enacted; none have any chance of being enacted.
- There are no formal negotiations going on between Congress and the White House, between the House and Senate or between Democrats and Republicans.
- The only discussions that seem to be taking place are between the two main factions in the House GOP…and the best thing that can be said about them is that they appear to be going nowhere.
- The original plan suggested by the House Republican leadership was flatly rejected by the tea partiers in the House GOP caucus. The tea partiers were energized by their success.
- House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) haven’t put a new plan on the table since their last plan was rejected by members of their own party a week ago. Boehner has even indicated publicly that he’s not sure whether there is a plan than is acceptable to his caucus.
- Meanwhile, in keeping with the tradition that the House goes first on CRs, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he is going to wait for the House to act before moving forward. What happens when/if he moves forward is anyone’s guess
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has far less room to maneuver compared to previous budget fights because he is being challenged in the GOP Kentucky primary by a tea partier.
- House Democrats, who in the past have provided the votes to help the House GOP pass budget-related bills when the Republican caucus couldn’t decide what to do, this time seem hell bent on not doing it again.
- The White House has far less sway over congressional Democrats now than it did before the 2012 election. Needless to say, it has almost none over congressional Republicans.
- The extremely negative political impact of the 1995-96 shutdowns is such a distant (or nonexistent) memory for so many House Republicans that it’s not at all clear they have any fear of it happening again in 2013.
- To top it all off, this year’s budget debate is less about the budget than it is about defunding Obamacare and that makes a compromise far harder on the budget issues.
Two things usually help with a political stalemate like this (although I’m not really sure there ever has been a situation exactly like this one):
- A charismatic leader who can overcome the partisan warfare
- A crisis that substantially changes the politics
It’s hard to see any leader emerging in the short-term In the current hyper partisan environment. And while there are many charismatic politicians, at least right now none have the stature with both parties to negotiate a budget peace plan.
That leaves a crisis, and baring a military or foreign policy disaster, the only one with the potential to create enough political pain in a relatively short period of time is a federal shutdown.
That makes a shutdown a better option for Boehner, Cantor, McConnell and Reid than it might otherwise seem.
A shutdown also may work for Boehner because (1) it will show his tea partiers that he was willing to allow it to happen as they wanted, (2) it will change the politics as many voters go from being amused to being furious and (3) the tea partiers may be able to use the shutdown with their own voters to prove their political testosterone.
As usual, there’s a group of greedy billionaires behind the shutdown mentality. It seems they all make lots of money just from all the hooplah.
Club for Growth and other extremist groups consider a record like his an unforgivable failure, and they are raising and spending millions to make sure that no Republicans will take similar positions in the next few weeks when the fiscal year ends and the debt limit expires.
If you’re wondering why so many House Republicans seem to believe they can force President Obama to accept a “defunding” of the health care reform law by threatening a government shutdown or a default, it’s because these groups have promised to inflict political pain on any Republican official who doesn’t go along.
Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund have each released scorecards showing which lawmakers have pledged to “defund Obamacare.” When a senator like Tom Coburn of Oklahoma refuses to pledge, right-wing activists are told: “Please contact Senator Coburn and tell him it’s dishonest to say you oppose Obamacare, but then vote to fund it. Tell him he swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution.”
Mr. Schock and 10 other lawmakers considered suspiciously squishy by the Club for Growth were designated as RINO’s (Republicans in name only), and the club has vowed to find primary opponents and support them with cash — a formidable threat considering that it spent $18 million backing conservative candidates in the 2012 cycle. Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers group that has already spent millions on ads fighting health reform, is beginning a new campaign to delay the law’s effects.
These groups, all financed with secret and unlimited money, feed on chaos and would like nothing better than to claim credit for pushing Washington into another crisis. Winning an ideological victory is far more important to them than the severe economic effects of a shutdown or, worse, a default, which could shatter the credit markets.
They also have another reason for their attacks: fund-raising. All their Web sites pushing the defunding scheme include a big “donate” button for the faithful to push. “With your donation, you will be sending a strong message: Obamacare must be defunded now,” saysthe Web site of the National Liberty Federation, another “social welfare” group that sees dollar signs in shutting down the government.
Brian Walsh, a longtime Republican operative, recently noted in U.S. News and World Report that the right is now spending more money attacking Republicans than the Democrats are. “Money begets TV ads, which begets even more money for these groups’ personal coffers,” he wrote. “Pointing fingers and attacking Republicans is apparently a very profitable fund-raising business.”
What always seems odd in all of this is the number of people that fall for these rich, ideological loudmouths whose slash and burn policy is killing every one. It seems to me that it’s an offshoot of xenophobia, misogyny and racism. It appears easier for some folks to believe that women, minorities, and other ethnic groups are more responsible for their economic demise than their bosses and overlords in the pulpits, in elected office, and the bosses chair. Why some one doesn’t question the patriotism and birth certificate of the likes of Ted Cruz is beyond me. He’s really the poster boy for everything that’s removing the greatness from our country imho.