Monday, November 5, 2012

Last Call

And one final election note:  Turns out Harry Reid was right.  Mitt Romney has been avoiding taxes using the Mormon Church as a giant loophole for over a decade.

In this instance, Romney used the tax-exempt status of a charity -- the Mormon Church, according to a 2007 filing -- to defer taxes for more than 15 years. At the same time he is benefiting, the trust will probably leave the church with less than what current law requires, according to tax returns obtained by Bloomberg this month through a Freedom of Information Act request.

In general, charities don’t owe capital gains taxes when they sell assets for a profit. Trusts like Romney’s permit funders to benefit from that tax-free treatment, said Jonathan Blattmachr, a trusts and estates lawyer who set up hundreds of such vehicles in the 1990s.

“The main benefit from a charitable remainder trust is the renting from your favorite charity of its exemption from taxation,” Blattmachr said. Despite the name, giving a gift or getting a charitable deduction “is just a throwaway,” he said. “I used to structure them so the value dedicated to charity was as close to zero as possible without being zero.”

When individuals fund a charitable remainder unitrust, or “CRUT,” they defer capital gains taxes on any profit from the sale of the assets, and receive a small upfront charitable deduction and a stream of yearly cash payments. Like an individual retirement account, the trust allows money to grow tax deferred, while like an annuity it also pays Romney a steady income. After the funder’s death, the trust’s remaining assets go to a designated charity.

Romney’s CRUT, which is only a small part of the $250 million that Romney’s campaign cites as his net worth, has been paying him 8 percent of its assets each year. As the Romneys have received these payments, the money that will potentially be left for charity has declined from at least $750,000 in 2001 to $421,203 at the end of 2011. 

In other words, it's a grandfathered tax dodge that Romney's been using for quite some time and only at the very end before the election did we find out about it.  And 48% of America, minimum, think that makes him an awesome President.

Vote tomorrow with this in mind.

Cops Not Laughing At Prank

Pittsburgh police believe a small plastic bag of pot found in the narcotics commander's car was left there as a prank -- but they don't appreciate the joke.
Assistant Chief George Trosky says the drugs were found after police picked up the car early last month from a garage that cleans and details city police cars. Police aren't identifying the garage because it services undercover vehicles, but Trosky says police believe an employee put the drugs in Cmdr. Cheryl Doubt's car as a joke.
You gotta give whoever did it points.  Either the cops for the worst excuse ever, or the cleaning service for best prank ever.

Old Rugged Cross

After Delia Jimenez was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008, her husband, David, often prayed before a large stone crucifix outside  St. Patrick’s Church in Newburgh, N.Y.  Devout  Catholics, the couple credited Delia Jimenez’s recovery in 2010  to her husband’s fervent praying. They were so grateful that his wife asked the parish priest, Blady Socualaya,  if her husband could clean the cross to show his gratitude.  He said yes.
On Memorial Day of the year of his wife’s recovery, Jimenez  began to scrub the 600-pound marble crucifix when it became unhinged, toppled on him and crushed his right leg, his lawyer, Kevin Kitson, told ABC News. He was rushed to Westchester Medical Center, where his leg had been so badly mangled it had to be amputated. Jimenez, a Mexican immigrant, spent more than a month in the hospital, ratcheting up hundreds of thousands in medical bills. Kitson told ABC News that Jimenez had no health insurance and that the bills were paid by charitable trusts.
In my mind, the church is as liable as any business or entity where their property causes unintended harm.  There is an outcry against Jimenez for "going after" the church, but it seems reasonable to me that the church is liable for the damage caused on its property by an extension of its property.

What do you guys think?

Stewart's Bra-Top Fashion Under Fire

I'm no fan of Kristen Stewart.  I don't dislike her, but I have only been moderately impressed with her on the big screen.  However, I have to say she has a bold sense of fashion, but one that has resonated with so many young women because it's fashion that can be obtained by shopping at local stores.  No flights to Madrid or Tokyo, as the super-rich had made us believe is necessary for The Look.  Macy's will be carrying this in no time.

Say what you will about Kristen Stewart, but you can't deny that girl isn't loyal... to her favorite fashion house at least. The face of Balenciaga has been known to road test the brand's riskier looks, from wild printed pants at fashion week to a jacquard leather dress at this year's Met Gala. But is her latest Balenciaga getup her most polarizing yet?
For the "On The Road" premiere at the 2012 AFI Fest on Saturday, the 22-year-old opted for a look that wasn't exactly a crowd-pleaser. Pleated pants? Check. Super pointy pumps? Check. An ambiguous bra-top thing? Check... wait -- is that the third star we've seen wearing one of those in the space of a month? Ok, fine, it's officially a trend.

I personally love the top.  In general, maybe not.  Stewart looks great in this, and it suits her body and style.  It may not be a practical look for most people (you gotta be super fit to make this work).  But I think she looks great, and is finally starting to cross over into womanhood (see earlier article on Rumer Willis).

I Heard A Rumer

So I owe my husband dinner.  We made a bet years ago whether Rumer Willis would take after her mother... or her father.  The issue in particular was looks, was she going to come out with Demi's charm or was her father's jaw going to be the first thing you saw about her every time?  Was she going to be a talented actress or a whiny Hollywood brat?

Turns out she's not a bad actress (she's still getting started,  but shows promise in comedy) and she's pretty darned smart.  She doesn't have her mother's delicate features but she is somehow just as attractive despite the more blocky features and bigger frame.

Then People ran a picture of her in a bikini.  Yeah, yeah... she looks great.  But for the first time she finally  looks like the woman she is going to be.  Rumer clung to her girl look for years, and now her face has begun to take on character and depth.  I personally love that she has a dynamite body and isn't wearing the sluttiest bikini money can buy.  She may have *gasp!* taste.  She may be a surprise all around, which would be nice in a swarm of Hollywood fakes with too much money and not enough brains or soul (why helloooo, Paris).

Good for her.  Click here for the article and the bikini picture.

Turtle And Badger Must Fight, It Is The Way Of All Things

Mitch "Old-Age Mutant Nimrod Turtle" McConnell and Harry "Honey Badger Don't Give A F*ck" Reid sat down together in the same room with CBS's Steve Kroft for a 60 Minutes joint interview on the Senate.  The results were...well...see for yourself.

How bad is the partisan divide in the U.S. Senate? Bad enough that the leaders of the two parties wouldn’t answer questions or even so much as look at one another during their first-ever interview together on Sunday night.

“It was very chilly,” “60 Minutes” reporter Steve Kroft said, summarizing the contentious interview in a web-only exclusive. “They did not look at each other once during the course of the interview.”

Worse yet, “They didn’t answer almost any question, so we kept coming back at them,” Kroft said. “They don’t trust each other. I think that’s the problem. There’s a great deal of mistrust between the political parties. They don’t trust each other to follow through on their work.”

He added: ”They kept saying ‘my good friend, Harry’ or ‘my good friend, Mitch,’ but it didn’t seem very genuine.”

To say these two guys hate each other is an understatement, but that's the way politics works these days.  McConnell has blocked legislation time and time again with the filibuster, and I don't see Democrats taking the necessary steps to fix that until they can win the House back.  That might be a while.

We'll see how tomorrow shakes out.  I still see the Dems keeping their 53 Senate seats and maybe picking up a seat or two.

Nate's Final Numbers

Nate Silver's latest analysis is now seeing the final national polls starting to favor the President as the state polls are, and that's to be expected.

A number of these polls had very large sample sizes, meaning that the results are less likely than usual to have resulted from statistical variance.

But the modest gains that Mr. Obama has made in the high-profile national surveys should not be that much of a surprise. We’ve observed the race shifting toward him over the past two to three weeks in polls of swing states, where overwhelming majorities of polls have had Mr. Obama ahead over the past few days.

Where has Mr. Obama shown a bit of weakness in his numbers? His polls in noncompetitive states have been mediocre lately. In polls published by the online firm YouGov on Sunday, for example, there were declines in Mr. Obama’s numbers in California and Texas. Since these states have large populations, they could lower Mr. Obama’s popular vote even though they will play no role in his Electoral College tally.

The forecast model still does perceive some differences between the state polls and national polls, but it is within a reasonable range.

Perhaps more important, the fact that the national polls now suggest a slight lead for Mr. Obama removes one of the better reasons to think that our forecast might have been underrating Mr. Romney’s chances.

Based on the simulations that we ran on early Sunday evening, for example, Mr. Obama would have an 85 percent chance of winning the Electoral College if the popular vote were exactly tied nationally. This is where Mr. Obama’s Electoral College advantages, particularly in Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin, would be of their maximum benefit. Given a tied national popular vote, we would expect Mr. Obama to underperform his polls slightly in these states — but since he leads by a minimum of about three points in the polling average in each one, he could underperform those numbers and still win them.

Mr. Obama would be almost certain to win the Electoral College if he won the popular vote by a percentage point or so.

And that's where he is at this point, with a lead nationally of a point or two.  Nate is still hanging an 87% chance for the President, and about 12.5% for Romney, we've gone from one in six to about one in eight now for the Republican.

Having said that, it's important to note that Nate gave only a one in six chance 2 years ago of Republicans picking up 70 House seatsThey got 67.  Just because Silver assigns it a low probability doesn't mean the President can't lose.  It means that out of every fifteen simulations, Romney does win two of them.

Keep that in mind.  If you can vote early today (some states still have early voting on Monday) do so, and Tuesday get to the polls otherwise!


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