Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Last Call For The Drums Of War, Con't

With the US Supreme Court announcing that the Trump regime can fully implement its Muslim travel ban while the case works its way through the appellate system, and all but showing SCOTUS's cards on how it will rule when it gets the case, not only am I convinced more than ever that we'll be in an all new war by the end of 2018, but possibly two.

The US Supreme Court on Monday allowed the newest version of President Donald Trump's travel ban to take effect pending appeal. 
This is the first time justices have allowed any edition of the ban to go forward in its entirety. It signals that some of the justices might be distinguishing the latest version from previous iterations and could be more likely, in the future, to rule in favor of the ban. 
Issued in September, the third edition of the travel ban placed varying levels of restrictions on foreign nationals from eight countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Somalia and Yemen. 
Lower courts in two separate challenges had partially blocked the ban. 
The order is a significant temporary win for the Trump administration, which has fought all year to impose a travel ban against citizens of several Muslim-majority countries. Monday's order means it can be enforced while challenges to the policy make their way through the legal system.

And if this doesn't piss off the Muslim world enough, Trump's coming announcement tomorrow certainly will.

Donald Trump is telling leaders from across the Middle East that he intends to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, an explosive move that will break from 50 years of US foreign policy, potentially derail his administration’s hopes of restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and threaten to spark violence across the region. 
Trump reportedly also told King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by phone that he plans to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That move won’t be imminent, however. The White House told reporters late Tuesday that the president plans to sign another six-month waiver delaying the embassy move; Trump is expected to publicly announce both decisions on Wednesday. 
The administration’s planned announcement is already sparking fury across the Arab world. A spokeswoman for Abbas’s office issued a statement early Tuesday warning of “dangerous consequences” if Trump moves forward with plans to eventually move the embassy. King Abdullah was equally critical, saying in a statement that the White House shift on Jerusalem “will undermine the efforts of the American administration to resume the peace process.” 
Right-wing Israeli leaders, by contrast, didn’t try to disguise their happiness. In a message to Trump, Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home party, said he wanted to thank “you from the bottom of my heart for your commitment and intention to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” 
The sharply divergent reactions highlight the fact that there is almost no other issue in the Middle East as contentious as the future of Jerusalem. 
Both the Palestinians and the Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital. Though Israel’s Parliament and the prime minister’s home are in Jerusalem, they sit in West Jerusalem, on the side of the city Israel has controlled since 1949. Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed that half of the city. 
The international community considers East Jerusalem occupied territory. But that half the city also contains sites holy to all three major monotheistic religions, including the Western Wall, the most sacred site in the world for Jews, and the Temple Mount, a sacred site for Muslims. 
The Palestinians would like to officially divide the city and make East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state. The Israelis, to put it mildly, disagree — and the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long made clear that it wouldn’t even consider making concessions over Jerusalem. 
The decades-long political fight over the future of the city is what makes Trump’s new moves so momentous — and so dangerous.

Trump's move will have disastrous consequences for the peace process and for America.  At this point it's a race to see who we go to war with first, North Korea or Iran.

Believe me when I say Trump wants both.

Taxing Our Patience, Con't

So it turns out that when you rush through a bill that rewrites the entire US tax code in one day and don't bother to read the bill, you make mistakes.  Big ones.  Like rendering 100% of your multi-billion dollar corporate tax sweetheart deductions moot.

Mitch McConnell never subjected his blueprint for restructuring the world’s largest economy to a single hearing. His caucus never invited experts to offer insight into the bill’s implications for housing, health care, higher education, outsourcing, or tax evasion. This haste had an upside for the Senate GOP: It allowed the party to pass deeply unpopular changes to the tax code before the public had time to learn about them.
But approaching major legislation like an Adderall-addled sophomore approaches an overdue term paper came with a minor drawback: It forced the party to pass a tax bill before they had time to read it. 
In hindsight, McConnell should have asked for an extension. While Republicans were manically outlining their plans to take from the poor to give to the Trumps, they also, accidentally, nullified all of their corporate donors’ favorite deductions
This screwup — like most of the tax plan’s oddest features — was born of a math problem. Due to arcane Senate rules, the Trump tax cuts can only add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. Last Thursday, the Senate tax bill already cost about that sum, and then McConnell started making expensive promises to his few holdouts. Susan Collins wanted a $10,000 property tax deduction for Americans in high-tax states; Ron Johnson wanted a 23 percent business-income deduction for the company that his family owns. This left the Senate Majority Leader searching under the tax code’s couch cushions for new sources of revenue. 
Eventually, he came upon the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT). At present, most corporations face a 35 percent (statutory) rate on their income. But by availing themselves of various tax credits and deductions, most companies can get their actual rates down far below that figure. To put a limit on just how far, the corporate AMT prevents companies from paying any less than 20 percent on their profits (or, more precisely, on the profits that they fail to hide overseas). 
The GOP had originally intended to abolish the AMT. But on Friday, with the clock running out — and money running short — Senate Republicans put the AMT back into their bill. Unfortunately for McConnell, they forgot to lower the AMT after doing so. 
This is a big problem. The Senate bill brings the normal corporate rate down to 20 percent — while leaving the alternative minimum rate at … 20 percent. The legislation would still allow corporations to claim a wide variety of tax credits and deductions — it just renders all them completely worthless. Companies can either take no deductions, and pay a 20 percent rate — or take lots of deductions … and pay a 20 percent rate.

Yes, Republicans are this stupid.  And the corporations that own Republican senators are furious.

Murray Energy Corp., an Ohio-based firm and the largest privately held U.S. coal-mining company, complained that the AMT decision and the Senate’s tougher limits on interest deductions made a “mockery out of so-called tax reform.” Robert Murray, the company’s chief executive officer, said the Senate tax plan would raise his company’s tax bill by $60 million.

What the Senate did, in their befuddled mess, is drove me out of business and then bragged about the fact that they got some tax reform passed,” Mr. Murray said in an interview Sunday. “This is not job creation. This is not stimulating income. This is driving a whole sector of our community into nonexistence.

Oh well.  Guess they'll have to work that out in conference.

This thing just might disintegrate after all.

Meanwhile in Bevinstan...

I was wondering when the other shoe was going to drop on former Kentucky GOP House Speaker Jeff Hoover, who resigned over covering up a sexual harassment settlement claim with a staffer last month.  Now we find out that the story behind Hoover's resignation was -- surprise! -- a lot worse than originally reported.

A Kentucky House Republican employee alleges in a lawsuit that she was retaliated against for reporting an "inappropriate sexual relationship" between then-House Speaker Jeff Hoover and a woman in his office and that GOP leaders used money from "prominent campaign donors" to secretly settle the woman's sexual harassment claim.

Communications Director Daisy Olivo says in her whistleblower lawsuit filed Monday in Franklin Circuit Court that she had her duties taken away after disclosing the details of the relationship to the Legislative Research Commission's general counsel and human resources director, and that she has faced ongoing retaliation.

Olivo's lawsuit contradicts Hoover and investigators retained by House leadership about the nature of the relationship and how the settlement was paid. 
The woman who accused Hoover of sexual harassment shared a timeline with Olivo of her "physical, sexual encounters" with Hoover, as well as three years' worth of text messages with him, according to the lawsuit. 
Claims made in a lawsuit represent only one side of the case. 
Hoover, a Jamestown Republican, admitted making mistakes but denied any sexual relations or harassment when he resigned as speaker.

His apology and resignation came four days after Courier Journal broke news that Hoover had entered into a secret settlement with a woman who worked on his staff.

I mean Hoover's already lost his job and any shot he had at higher state office, but if the claims in this lawsuit are true, Hoover's in a lot of legal trouble too.  Kentucky's had its share of Republicans and corruption, Gov. Ernie Fletcher and state Ag commissioner Ritchie Farmer to name a few, and Bevin's being so holier-than-thou over the Hoover scandal that he must have something to hide that we'll later find out about.

But this is awful even for Kentucky standards.  If Hoover used donor cash to settle this lawsuit, he's going to jail for a while as I can't imagine that Andy Beshear would be lenient on him as AG, not to mention the retaliation by Hoover to fire the woman who blew the whistle on his actions.

We'll see what happens, but the Hoover story is going to be with us well into 2018.
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