Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


The Extremist Danger of a President Pence


Admittedly, living with Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, in the White House has caused many Americans to feel as if they are living with a never ending case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. When in recent decades has one had to worry that the next morning might find them facing a nuclear war started by a petulant, malignant narcissist with the nuclear codes? In my pre-teen years, the threat of a Russian launch nuclear war was a constant, but now the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue could be the culprit.  Because of this non-stop drum beat of stress, some would like to see Trump either, resign, be impeached, or removed pursuant to the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The down side of that eventuality is that America could be faced with Mike Pence as president.   While perhaps not as totally batshit crazy and unstable as Trump, Pence poses a whole different set of dangers to the nation and constitutional government.  A very lengthy piece in the New Yorker looks at the dangers a President Pence would pose, especially given his off the charts religious extremism. In his own way, Pence is just as insane as Trump (here in Virginia, John Adams, the GOP attorney general candidate is a would be Mike Pence clone).  Here are lengthy article excerpts which underscore that Pence denies the theory of evolution, denies climate change, is in bed with the Koch brothers, and would inflict his extreme religious beliefs on all Americans:
On September 14th, the right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, who last year published a book titled “In Trump We Trust,” expressed what a growing number of Americans, including conservatives, have been feeling since the 2016 election. . . . She soon added, “If we’re not getting a wall, I’d prefer President Pence.”
After Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, Gail Collins, the Times columnist, praised Vice-President Mike Pence as someone who at least “seems less likely to get the planet blown up.” This summer, an opinion column by Dana Milbank, of the Washington Post, appeared under the headline “ ‘President Pence’ is Sounding Better and Better.”
Pence, who has dutifully stood by the President, mustering a devotional gaze rarely seen since the days of Nancy Reagan, serves as a daily reminder that the Constitution offers an alternative to Trump. The worse the President looks, the more desirable his understudy seems. The more Trump is mired in scandal, the more likely Pence’s elevation to the Oval Office becomes, unless he ends up legally entangled as well.
If the job is a gamble for Pence, he himself is something of a gamble for the country. During the tumultuous 2016 Presidential campaign, relatively little attention was paid to how Pence was chosen, or to his political record. And, with all the infighting in the new Administration, few have focussed on Pence’s power within the White House. Newt Gingrich told me recently that the three people with the most policy influence in the Administration are Trump, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Pence.
Trump and Pence are misaligned politically, too. Trump campaigned as an unorthodox outsider, but Pence is a doctrinaire ideologue. Kellyanne Conway, the White House counsellor, who became a pollster for Pence in 2009, describes him as “a full-spectrum conservative” on social, moral, economic, and defense issues.
Pence has taken care to appear extraordinarily loyal to Trump, so much so that Joel K. Goldstein, a historian and an expert on Vice-Presidents who teaches law at St. Louis University, refers to him as the “Sycophant-in-Chief.”
This summer, I visited Pence’s home town of Columbus, Indiana. Harry McCawley, a retired editor at the Republic, the local newspaper, told me, “Mike Pence wanted to be President practically since he popped out of the womb.” Pence exudes a low-key humility, but, McCawley told me, “he’s very ambitious, even calculating, about the steps he’ll take toward that goal.”
Columbus, which has a population of forty-five thousand, was dominated by a major engine manufacturer, Cummins, and escaped the economic woes that afflicted many other parts of the region. But McCawley, the newspaper editor, told me that, while Pence was growing up, Columbus, “like many Indiana communities, still had vestiges of the Ku Klux Klan.” The group had ruled the state’s government in the twenties, and then gone underground. In Columbus, landlords refused to rent or sell homes to African-Americans until Cummins’s owners demanded that they do so.
Mike Pence attended Hanover College, a liberal-arts school in southeast Indiana. On a visit home, he told his father that he was thinking of either joining the priesthood or attending law school. His father suggested he start with law; he could always join the priesthood later. Shortly thereafter, to his family’s surprise, Pence became an evangelical Christian. His mother said that “college gave him a different viewpoint.” The story Pence tells is that he was in a fraternity, and when he admired another member’s gold cross he was told, “You have to wear it in your heart before you wear it around your neck.” Soon afterward, Pence has said, he attended a Christian music festival in Kentucky and “gave my life to Jesus.”
His conversion was part of a larger movement. In 1979, during Pence’s junior year in college, Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, to mobilize Christian voters as a political force. . . . The Moral Majority’s co-founder, Paul Weyrich, a Midwestern Catholic, established numerous institutions of the conservative movement . . . Weyrich condemned homosexuality, feminism, abortion, and government-imposed racial integration, and he partnered with some controversial figures, including Laszlo Pasztor, a former member of a pro-Nazi party in Hungary. When Weyrich died, in 2008, Pence praised him as a “friend and mentor” and a “founding father of the modern conservative movement,” from whom he had “benefitted immeasurably.”
While in law school, at Indiana University, Pence met and married Karen Batten, a schoolteacher whom he had noticed playing guitar in a church service. . . . Pence’s friends have called Karen his “prayer warrior.” . . . Pence also began observing what’s known as the Billy Graham rule, meaning that he never dined alone with another woman, or attended an event in mixed company where alcohol was served unless his wife was present. Critics have argued that this approach reduces women to sexual temptresses and precludes men from working with women on an equal basis. A Trump campaign official said that he found the Pences’ dynamic “a little creepy.”
In a 2008 speech, Pence described himself as “part of what we called the seed corn Heritage Foundation was spreading around the country in the state think-tank movement.” It isn’t fully clear whose money was behind the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, because think tanks, as nonprofits, don’t have to disclose their donors. But the early funders of the Heritage Foundation included some Fortune 500 companies, in fields such as oil, chemicals, and tobacco, that opposed health, safety, and environmental regulations.
Even as Pence argued for less government interference in business, he pushed for policies that intruded on people’s private lives. In the early nineties, he joined the board of the Indiana Family Institute, a far-right group that supported the criminalization of abortion and campaigned against equal rights for homosexuals. And, while Pence ran the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, it published an essay arguing that unmarried women should be denied access to birth control. . . . Vi Simpson, the former Democratic minority leader of the Indiana State Senate . . . believes that Pence wants to reverse women’s economic and political advances. “He’s on a mission,” she said.
In 2000, when a Republican congressman in northern Indiana vacated his seat, Pence ran as the Party favorite, on a platform that included a promise to oppose “any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.” He won, by a twelve-point margin.
Michael Leppert, a Democratic lobbyist in Indiana, saw Pence differently. “His politics were always way outside the mainstream,” Leppert said. “He just does it with a smile on his face instead of a snarl.”  Pence served twelve years in Congress, but never authored a single successful bill. His sights, according to Leppert, were always “on the national ticket.”
“He was as far right as you could go without falling off the earth,” Mike Lofgren, a former Republican congressional staff member, who has become a Trump critic, told me. “But he never really put a foot wrong politically. Beneath the Bible-thumping earnestness was a calculating and ambitious pol.”
Pence became best known for fiercely opposing abortion. He backed “personhood” legislation that would ban it under all circumstances, including rape and incest, unless a woman’s life was at stake. He sponsored an unsuccessful amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have made it legal for government-funded hospitals to turn away a dying woman who needed an abortion. (Later, as governor of Indiana, he signed a bill barring women from aborting a physically abnormal fetus; the bill also required fetal burial or cremation, including after a miscarriage. A federal judge recently found the law unconstitutional.)
Pence, who had called global warming “a myth” created by environmentalists in their “latest Chicken Little attempt to raise taxes,” took up the Kochs’ cause. He not only signed their pledge but urged others to do so as well. He gave speeches denouncing the cap-and-trade bill—which passed the House but got held up in the Senate—as a “declaration of war on the Midwest.” His language echoed that of the Koch groups. . . . the pledge marked a pivotal turn in the climate-change debate, cementing Republican opposition to addressing the environmental crisis.
Peterson said that the Checks & Balances Project hadn’t detected “much money going from the Kochs to Pence before he promoted the ‘No Climate Tax’ pledge.” Afterward, “he was the Kochs’ guy, and they’ve been showering him with money ever since.” Peterson went on, “He could see a pathway to the Presidency with them behind him.”
[I]n 2012, after mulling over his national prospects, Pence ran instead for governor of Indiana. “The conventional wisdom is that he ran for governor so he could check that box, get some executive experience, and then run for President,” Downs said. Pence won the governor’s race, but with only forty-nine per cent of the vote. “He was scary to the center,” Bill Oesterle, a co-founder of Angie’s List, an Indiana company that collates user reviews of local contractors, said.
Pence’s tenure as governor nearly destroyed his political career. He had promised Oesterle and other members of the state’s Republican business establishment that he would continue in the path of his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, a well-liked fiscal conservative who had called for a “truce” on divisive social issues. “Pence was very accommodating,” Oesterle said. But after he was elected he began taking controversial far-right stands that, critics believed, were geared more toward building his national profile than toward serving Indiana voters.
At first, Pence highlighted fiscal conservatism. In 2013, he proposed cutting the state income tax. . . . Eventually, the legislature went along with what Pence often describes as “the largest income-tax cut in the state’s history,” even though Indiana already had one of the lowest income taxes in the country, and had cut it only once before.
In the spring of 2015, Pence signed a bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he presented as innocuous. “He said it protected religious freedom, and who’s against that?” Oesterle recalled. But then a photograph of the closed signing session surfaced. It showed Pence surrounded by monks and nuns, along with three of the most virulently anti-gay activists in the state. The image went viral. Indiana residents began examining the law more closely, and discovered that it essentially legalized discrimination against homosexuals by businesses in the state.
The outcry over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enormous. Gay-rights groups condemned the bill and urged boycotts of the state. Pete Buttigieg, the young gay mayor of South Bend, who is a rising figure in the Democratic Party, told me that he tried to talk to Pence about the legislation, which he felt would cause major economic damage to Indiana. “But he got this look in his eye,” Buttigieg recalled. “He just inhabits a different reality. It’s very difficult for him to lay aside the social agenda. He’s a zealot.”
In an effort to quell criticism, Pence consented, against the advice of his staff, to be interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on his Sunday-morning show on ABC. Stephanopoulos asked him five times if it was now legal in Indiana for businesses to discriminate against homosexuals, and each time Pence was evasive. Pence also sidestepped when Stephanopoulos asked him if he personally supported discrimination against gays. “What killed him was his unwillingness to take a clear position,” Oesterle said.
Alarmed business executives from many of the state’s most prominent companies, including Cummins, Eli Lilly, Salesforce, and Anthem, joined civic leaders in expressing disapproval. Companies began cancelling conventions, and threatening to reverse plans to expand in the state. The Indiana business community foresaw millions of dollars in losses. When the N.C.A.A., which is based in Indianapolis, declared its opposition to the legislation, the pressure became intolerable. Even the Republican establishment turned on Pence. A headline in the Star, published the Tuesday after the Stephanopoulos interview, demanded, “fix this now.”
Within days, the legislature had pushed through a less discriminatory version of the bill, and Pence signed it, before hastily leaving town for the weekend. . . . the owner of the Indianapolis Business Journal, who is a Republican but not a hard-line social conservative, said, “It just exploded in his face. His polls were terrible. I bet he’d never get elected again in Indiana. But he went from being a likely loser as an incumbent governor to Vice-President of the United States. We’re still reeling!”
Clere, a Christian who opposes abortion, told me that he now finds Pence’s piety hypocritical. “He says he’s ‘pro-life,’ ” Clere said. “But people were dying.” When Clere was asked whom he would rather have as President—Trump or Pence—he replied, “I’d take Trump every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.” . . . . He talks all this God stuff, but he’s biased. He hates Muslims, he hates gay people, and he hates minorities. He didn’t want to be the first white man in Indiana to pardon an innocent black man.”
Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman at that point, arranged for Trump to meet Pence, and urged Trump to pick him. Pence was seen as a bridge to Christian conservatives, an asset in the Midwest, and a connection to the powerful Koch network.
Trump began to appoint an extraordinary number of officials with ties to the Kochs and to Pence, especially in positions that affected Koch Industries financially, such as those dealing with regulatory, environmental, and fiscal policy. Short, who a few months earlier had tried to enlist the Kochs to stop Trump, joined the White House as its director of legislative affairs. Scott Pruitt, the militantly anti-regulatory attorney general of Oklahoma, who had been heavily supported by the Kochs, was appointed director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, in turn, placed Patrick Traylor, a lawyer for Koch Industries and other fossil-fuel companies, in charge of the E.P.A.’s enforcement of key anti-pollution laws.
The pattern continued among lower-level political appointees, including in Pence’s office, which was stocked with Koch alumni. Pence reportedly consulted with Charles Koch before hiring his speechwriter, Stephen Ford, who previously worked at Freedom Partners. . . . Senator Whitehouse, the Rhode Island Democrat, believes that the Kochs “will stick one hundred of their own people into the government—and Trump will never notice.”
On November 17th, after little vetting, Flynn was named Trump’s national-security adviser, one of the most sensitive posts in the U.S. government. There is no indication that Pence raised any objections about Flynn to Trump, even after Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent Pence a letter warning him about Flynn’s questionable ethics . . .  Pence soon delivered a series of misleading statements about Flynn.
Several law professors have argued that the Vice-President could be vulnerable to charges of obstructing justice, or “misprision of a felony,” for participating in a meeting about shutting down the federal investigation and then providing a false cover story to the public. . . . Laurence Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, tweeted, “The VP appears to me to be in what we lawyers have been known to call deep doo-doo.”
“Trump thinks Pence is great,” Bannon told me. But, according to a longtime associate, Trump also likes to “let Pence know who’s boss.” A staff member from Trump’s campaign recalls him mocking Pence’s religiosity. He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”
There have been other evangelical Christians in the White House, including Carter and George W. Bush, but Pence’s fundamentalism exceeds theirs. In 2002, he declared that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory,” alongside such theories as intelligent design . . .
Pence has been hosting a Bible-study group for Cabinet officers, led by an evangelical pastor named Ralph Drollinger. In 2004, Drollinger, whose organization, Capitol Ministries, specializes in proselytizing to elected officials, stirred protests from female legislators in California, where he was then preaching, after he wrote, “Women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.” Drollinger describes Catholicism as “a false religion,” calls homosexuality “a sin,” and believes that a wife must “submit” to her husband.
Harold Ickes, a longtime Democratic operative, argues that—putting aside the fear that Trump might start a nuclear war—“Democrats should hope Trump stays in office,” because he makes a better foil, and because Pence might work more effectively with Congress and be more successful at advancing the far right’s agenda.
Both Trump and Pence need to be removed from office.  Both are a threat to a majority of Americans, not to mention the rest of the world. 



Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Monday, October 16, 2017

More Monday Male Beauty


The Trump/Gillespie Agenda Haunts the Virginia 2017 Elections

Ed Gillespie lies just like Trump

In much of Virginia's so-called urban crescent which, if voters turnout on election day, can thankful out vote the ignorance embracing, reactionary rural areas of the state, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer,  is viewed as nothing less than toxic.  For Ed "Enron Ed" Gillespie, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, this is a problem since the policies he is pushing make him largely a "mini me" version of Trump.  All that is lacking is boasting about sexual harassment of women.  Otherwise, the tax cuts, subtle but deliberate calls to racism and religious extremism are more or less a carbon copy of the ugliness that are Trump trade marks, with Gillespie revealing that he's just as big of liar as Trump.  If Trump "lies like a rug" as alleged by the Democrat candidate, Ralph Northam, so does Gillespie.  Of course, with his sleazy lobbying history, Gillespie has made it very clear that his interests do not lie with average Virginians and that he will lie for the highest bidder.  The contrast with Northam, a former military doctor and pediatric neurologist is stark.  A piece in the New York Times looks at how the revulsion toward Trump is impacting the 2017 Virginia elections.  Here are highlights:
Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee for Virginia governor, deployed just about every tactical evasion he had learned from a lifetime in politics as he dodged questions about President Trump.
Mr. Trump has so overwhelmed a campaign waged by a pair of bland candidates lacking signature proposals that, much the same way he does across the Potomac, he has made himself and his incendiary style of politics the central issue.
With the president rampaging through news cycles seemingly every day, the biggest question looming before Mr. Gillespie is whether it is worth the risk of trying to harness Mr. Trump’s total-eclipse-of-the-sun attention-getting skills to rouse conservative voters.
His campaign and the Republican Governor’s Association signaled to the White House at a meeting this spring that they preferred the reliable hand of Vice President Mike Pence, who campaigned with Mr. Gillespie on Saturday, over Mr. Trump in a state where the president is loathed in the vote-rich population centers but well-liked in many rural areas.
But trailing in every public poll, Mr. Gillespie is now engaged in a robust debate with his advisers about whether he should ask the president to stump with him, according to multiple Republican officials familiar with the conversations.
But the camp urging Mr. Gillespie to keep his distance from Mr. Trump counters that it would be malpractice to embrace a polarizing president who failed to win even 30 percent of the vote in Fairfax County, the most populous jurisdiction in the state and once a suburban battleground.
As they consider their options, Gillespie supporters have an object lesson: Mr. Trump’s ill-fated rally for Senator Luther Strange in Alabama, where he could not resist veering off-message. At that rally, Mr. Trump started his feud with the N.F.L. while offering a backhanded endorsement of Mr. Strange’s rival, Roy Moore.
Then there is the president’s calculation: Would he even want to risk attaching himself to a potential loser so soon after the Alabama race, in which he felt burned, according to White House officials. West Wing advisers say Mr. Trump is willing to record automated calls for Mr. Gillespie but is not clamoring to fire up Air Force One for the trip to Roanoke.
Yet whether Mr. Trump sets foot here or not, his success at motivating voters with culturally and racially tinged appeals has worn off on Mr. Gillespie. Once one of the loudest voices in his party for an inclusive message, Mr. Gillespie is now assailing Mr. Northam over the Democrat’s opposition to a state measure that would have banned “sanctuary cities” and targeting him for supporting the removal of the state’s many Confederate statues.
The Republican chafes at questions over whether he is adopting a Trumpian message and forgoing his own advice in 2006 that Republicans should resist the “siren song” of anti-immigration rhetoric, insisting he is running as “who I am and what I believe in.”
But his advertising reflects what he thinks will actually move the electorate: He is spending the bulk of his money on commercials focused on the statues, which make no mention of his view that the South was “on the wrong side of history,” and illegal immigrants. One of his immigration ads features amply tattooed Salvadoran prisoners meant to be members of the menacing gang MS-13, a target of the president’s.
After winning his primary partly on the strength of a heavily aired commercial in which he called the president “a narcissistic maniac,” Mr. Northam, who is running to succeed Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, used the first debate of the general election to call Mr. Trump a dangerous man who also “lies like a rug.”
But at the final debate last week, held in a pro-Trump enclave of Southwest Virginia, Mr. Northam, who will campaign here this week with former President Barack Obama, made no mention of Mr. Trump.
“It’s definitely a change in tone from the primary,” said Lowell Feld, a well-read liberal Virginia blogger, while conceding that “firing up your base while not turning off others is tricky.”
But, Mr. Feld added, “Trump doesn’t make anything easy.”
If you live in Virginia, make sure you register to vote - today is the last day to do so - and be sure to vote "No" to Trump and all that he stands for by voting for Ralph Northam for Governor, Mark Herring for Attorney General, and Justin Fairfax for Lt. Governor. 

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Sunday, October 15, 2017

More Sunday Morning Male Beauty


The Top Ten Trump/Republican Lies About Tax Cuts


For years now the Republican Party has relied on its appeals to religious based bigotry and racism to convince many lower and middle class voters to vote against their own economic interests so that Republicans could pursue policies that best served the extremely wealthy.   With the GOP and Der Trumpenführer rolling out alleged "tax reform" that will shower the wealthy with huge tax cuts, we are witnessing the same phenomenon yet again.  Here in Virginia, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie is likewise promising tax cuts that will disproportionately benefit the wealthy and leave the state with a huge budget deficit.  This time around, Republicans are trotting out a number of lies to help them dupe voters into betraying their own best interest a column in the New York Times bu a Nobel Prize winning economist looks at the top 10 GOP lies about taxes at the moment.  Here are column excerpts (I have looked at the six lies, read the entire piece for the other three):
Modern conservatives have been lying about taxes pretty much from the beginning of their movement. Made-up sob stories about family farms broken up to pay inheritance taxes, magical claims about self-financing tax cuts, and so on go all the way back to the 1970s. But the selling of tax cuts under Trump has taken things to a whole new level, both in terms of the brazenness of the lies and their sheer number. Both the depth and the breadth of the dishonesty make it hard even for those of us who do this for a living to keep track. 
I thought it might be useful, both for myself and for others, to put together a crib sheet: a fairly long-form description of ten big lies Trump and allies are telling, what they’ve said, and how we know that they are lies.
Lie #1: America is the most highly-taxed country in the world
This is a Trump special: he’s said it many, many times, most recently just this past week. Each time, fact-checkers have piled on to point out that it’s false.
Why does Trump keep repeating what even he has to know by now is a flat lie? I suspect it’s a power thing: he enjoys showing that he can lie repeatedly through his teeth, be caught red-handed in his lie again and again, and his followers will still believe him rather than the “fake news” media.
Lie #2: The estate tax is destroying farmers and truckers
Tales of struggling family farms disbanded because they can’t afford the taxes when the patriarch dies have flourished for decades, despite the absence of any examples. . . . . Lately Trump has added a new twist, portraying the estate tax as a terrible burden on hard-working truckers. For who among us doesn’t own an $11 million fleet of trucks?
[T]he Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows, is that only a small number of very large estates pay any tax at all, and only a tiny fraction of those tax-paying estates are small businesses or family farms. . . . it seems quite possible that this year only 2 or 3 truckers and not a single farmer will pay any estate tax.
Lie #3: Taxation of pass-through entities is a burden on small business
Most businesses in the United States, at least for tax purposes, aren’t what we normally think of as corporations subject to profits taxes. Instead, they’re partnerships, sole proprietorships, and S corporations whose earnings are simply “passed through”: counted as part of their owners’ personal income and taxed accordingly. . . . Trump wants to change that, and let owners simply pay a 15 percent tax on the earnings of pass-through entities, with no further taxes owed.
The vast majority of Americans are in a tax bracket of 15 percent or less, so even if they control a pass-through entity, the Trump tax break is worth nothing to them . . . . High-income individuals, however, would gain a lot by paying 15 percent instead of the much higher rates they pay at the margin – 39.6 percent right now. And they’d also have a strong incentive to rearrange their affairs so that more of their income pops up in their pass-throughs. This wouldn’t be small-business creation; it wouldn’t add jobs; it would just be tax avoidance. That’s what happened when Kansas tried something similar, and played a big role in the state’s fiscal disaster.
So this isn’t a tax break for small business, it’s a tax break for, surprise, wealthy individuals.
Lie #4: Cutting profits taxes really benefits workers
Think about what happens if you cut the taxes on corporate profits. The immediate impact is that (duh) corporations have more money. Why would they spend that extra money on hiring more workers or increasing their wages?
Not, surely, out of the goodness of their hearts – and not in response to worker demands, because these days nobody cares what workers think.
Now, they might be inclined to invest more, increasing the demand for labor and therefore raising wages indirectly while competing pre-tax profits down. But there are a couple of major slippages in this story.
So for an extended period – at least 5 years, probably much more — cutting profits taxes is good for owners of corporations. Workers, not so much.
Lie #5: Repatriating overseas profits will create jobs
For tax reasons, corporations hold a lot of money in overseas tax shelters. Tax cutters always claim that lower rates and/or an amnesty will bring that money home and create a lot of jobs.
Those overseas accounts are just an accounting device, which have very little real effect. Many of the companies with big overseas hoards also have plenty of idle cash at home; what’s holding them back is a lack of perceived opportunities, not cash flow. And even those who don’t have surplus cash can easily borrow at near-record low interest rates; remember, they can always use the overseas cash to secure their loans.
And we have solid empirical evidence here. In 2004 the U.S. enacted the Homeland Investment Act, which offered a tax holiday for repatriation of foreign earnings by U.S. multinationals. Careful study of its effects tells us that
Repatriations did not lead to an increase in domestic investment, employment or R&D — even for the firms that lobbied for the tax holiday stating these intentions and for firms that appeared to be financially constrained. Instead, a $1 increase in repatriations was associated with an increase of almost $1 in payouts to shareholders.
Lie #6: This is not a tax cut for the rich
Trump says it isn’t, so that’s that, right? Oh, wait.
Actually, if you look at the major provisions of the Unified Framework, the big items are (i) Cuts in corporate taxes (ii) Pass-through tax cut (iii) elimination of the estate tax (iv) cut in top marginal rate. All these strongly favor very high incomes – and everything else is small change. Hence the Tax Policy Center estimate: . . . . given the general shape of the plan there’s no way it can fail to be very much a gift to the already very rich.
Lie #7: It’s a big tax cut for the middle class
See Lie #6 above. All the big provisions benefit the rich, not the middle class. What’s left is mostly small change – and some of it, like ending deductibility of state and local taxes and other deductions, actually raises taxes on a substantial number of middle-class Americans.
In total, by 2027, according to TPC, 80 percent of the tax cut goes to the top 1 percent; only 12 percent to the middle three quintiles.

The take away? Trump and Republicans - including Ed Gillespie and his running mates - are playing their base for fools yet again.

Australia Survey: 2 Out of 3 Say Religion More Harmful Than Good


In Australia a battle is ongoing over legalizing same sex marriage.  True to form the Australian equivalents of America's Christofascists are pulling out all the same lies and anti-LGBT propaganda fine tuned by American hate groups.  Meanwhile, a years long sex scandal is engulfing the Roman Catholic Church in which the senior most cardinal is under indictment for sex crimes.  Never bowed by its own hypocrisy, the Catholic Church has loudly and viciously opposed marriage between consenting same sex adults after decades and decades of cover ups of sexual assault by its clergy against non-consenting minors.  Not surprisingly, many Australians are over with religion in general.  Indeed, a new survey revealed that two out of three Australians view religion as a net evil causing more harm to society than good.  Joining Australia in its dim view of religion are Canada, India and a number of European countries where, like India, centuries of bloodshed over religion are part of the national history.  Sadly, I have to agree with the conclusion of  63% of Australians.  A piece in the Sydney Morning Herald looks at the survey results.  Here are excerpts:
A bigger share of Australians than respondents in most other countries think religion does more harm than good in the world, new polling has revealed.
But we are also more comfortable with religious diversity than the international average.
The survey of more than 17,000 people across 23 countries by polling firm Ipsos found opinion is evenly divided about the influence that religion has in society.
It showed 49 per cent of respondents across all countries agreed with the statement "religion does more harm in the world than good".
But the proportion of Australians agreeing with that statement was well above the international average at 63 per cent.
"Australia is one of the more negative countries regarding the perceived harm that religion does," David Elliott from the Ipsos Social Research Institute said.
Only Belgium (68 per cent) had a higher proportion than Australia who agreed religion does more harm than good, while Germany and Spain were on par with Australia.
Australia had an above-average share who felt "completely comfortable" being around people with different religious beliefs to their own (84 per cent).
"While many of us do not have a positive view of religion, we are not translating this negativity to fear or dislike of individuals who have different beliefs to our own," Mr Elliot said.
"In this regard, we are among the more tolerant nations globally. This tolerance may reflect our multi-cultural society or maybe driven by beliefs that negative impacts of religion are more an issue globally than locally."
International opinion was also split when it comes to the importance of religion to a nation's "moral life". Half of those across the 23 countries surveyed agreed with the statement "religious practices are an important factor in the moral life of my country's citizens". Only about four in 10 Australians concurred with that statement, a much smaller share than the two in three Americans who agreed.
The share in the United States who think religion does more harm than good in the world was also well below the international average at 39 per cent.

With Der Trumpenführer's regime busy establishing special rights for Christofascists, one has to wonder if American opinion will change as more and more citizens find themselves targeted for discrimination or see Christofascist views imposed upon them.  I for one hope that such is the case. The hate, division and extremism of religion has caused the death of millions and millions over the centuries - and such is still the case if one looks no farther than the Middle East.  

Trump and Gillespie Are Both Lying About "Bringing Back Coal"


One of the lies that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, during his Russian assisted campaign and since is that he would end "the war on cal" and promised those in coal producing regions of the country that he bring back the glory days of the coal industry.  Like so much else that was promised by Trump and his sinister minion, Mike Pence, it was all a lie because there is no war on coal.  The decline of coal is driven not by government regulation but by economic conditions that nothing Trump does can reverse.  Thus, Trump's reversal of Obama administration regulations and moratoriums on leasing on federal lands will change nothing.  With cheaper and cleaner natural gas alternatives, coal fired power plants are on the decline both in America and around the world. Trump, of course, is not the only Republican lying about the ending the war on coal and bringing the coal industry.  Ed Gillespie has crisscrossed Southwest Virginia making the same disingenuous promises that Trump has trumpeted.  Now, Mike Pence is campaigning with Gillespie and telling the same lies.  Sadly, many in rural Virginia are believing the Trump/Gillespie lie that government regulation and the EPA are the problem and will likely be duped into voting against their own long term best interests.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the economic conditions that are really behind the death of the coal industry.   
It was depicted by energy executives and conservatives as a “witch hunt,” “a politically motivated sham” and a move that would “destroy mining in the West .” In January 2016, President Barack Obama imposed a three-year moratorium on federal coal leasing, which halted new projects and delayed pending applications for companies to extract coal from federal land. During that time, the Interior Department was to carry out an overdue review of the program’s social and environmental costs.
A year later, all this was an easy target for President Trump, who had promised to save the coal industry from oppressive regulations and slumping sales . On March 29, his administration lifted the moratorium and deep-sixed the study.
 [T]he president said he was “putting an end to the war on coal.” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke argued that the leasing program was critical to “energy security” and “job creation.” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt followed that by moving this past week to repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan, designed to limit carbon emissions.
But the moves to save this industry have actually exposed its weaknesses — and revealed a trend that coal companies and the Trump administration have not acknowledged publicly: The companies are scaling back, in some cases shedding workers and declining the opportunities the federal government now wants to give them. Despite Trump’s best efforts, the American coal industry remains on life support.
Outwardly, coal companies and their advocates have embraced Trump’s aggressive rollbacks as aids toward boosting production and creating jobs. These are central elements of Trump’s promise to “make America great again.” And the administration frequently boasts that coal is making a comeback. . . . But a recent White House talking point — that some 50,000 new coal-mining jobs had been created since the election — has been debunked. The figure is closer to 1,300. 
In private, coal company executives are deeply skeptical about the administration’s ability to alter market conditions. In numerous letters to Bureau of Land Management state offices that I obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, the coal industry acknowledged the continuing decline in demand, and in several cases, companies withdrew pending lease applications.
In the six months since that announcement at the EPA, companies have withdrawn five of 44 pending lease applications, and at least eight are indefinitely on hold. In a number of cases, companies have explained that their decisions are based on persistently weak market conditions. 
In the letters to state BLM offices obtained through FOIA requests, coal companies admitted that the future is not as rosy as they might have hoped or would like to project. Arch Coal, the second-largest supplier in the United States, referred to the “continued downward pressure on the Powder River Basin and subsequent reduced output over the past seven years” in explaining why it was withdrawing a lease application for a major new mine in Wyoming. Rhino Energy, which has operations in Appalachia and the West , said that “current coal market conditions remain depressed” and that it wouldn’t move forward with a lease for a proposed 14,000-acre mine in Colorado until that outlook changed. 
This is hardly the picture of an industry on the rebound, and it is squarely at odds with one of the central promises of Trump’s presidential campaign: that policy changes would revive the ailing sector and create thousands of new jobs in coal communities. Not that the administration hasn’t tried. . . . But it’s not enough to compensate for weak domestic demand, driven largely by the rise of natural gas as an alternative to coal.
In the end, lifting the much-vilified moratorium will have little, if any, impact on the price of natural gas (made cheap by the discovery of huge new deposits in the past decade and advances in drilling technology), declining domestic demand for coal (thanks to the shuttering of dozens of coal-fired power plants) or a relatively flat export market (because of price volatility and the cost of shipping). Those fundamentals won’t change anytime soon. And some companies seem to think their best bet is an outright bailout.
If there was suddenly a surge in demand for coal, the industry would be poised to ramp up production from existing mines. That is unlikely to happen. “We don’t think [the industry] is going to need new reserves from the federal government for a decade,” said Daniel Rusz, a research director at Wood Mackenzie, a global consultancy with clients in the financial and energy sector.
For coal’s champions, inside the administration and out, that’s the rub: The domestic coal market shows no signs of fundamentally changing, and without renewed demand, there’s no reason to pursue new leases. According to a March study by Headwaters Economics, 142 coal-fired power plants have retired generators or closed entirely since 2009. That trend is expected to continue. Just this month, one of the largest coal-fired power plants in Texas announced that it would be shutting its doors early next year; a spokesman for the company that owns it called the plant a “money loser.” 
“There are no new coal plants being built,” said Rusz. If companies open new mines, who is going buy the coal in 30 or 40 years?
Not a single ton of coal has been leased from the Powder River Basin since June 2012. “We still have a market moratorium,” Anderson points out. “We had it for four years prior to the official moratorium. And it’s still going.”