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  1. #11101

    Re: Politics Random Random

    Paul Krugman‏Verified account @paulkrugman 25m25 minutes ago
    Right now, I'm feeling more terrified than at any point since the 2016 election. Why? It's time for some game theory! 1/

    Start with a clear-eyed assessment of Trump's character: he basically has negative empathy -- that is, enjoys seeing others hurt 2/

    Normally, however, one would expect him to pretend to care and maybe even do some good things out of ambition and self-aggrandizement 3/

    At this point, however, it's clear to everyone -- probably even him -- that he just can't do this president thing, and won't get better 4/

    The prospect that he will be removed, say by 25th amdt, getting realer by the day. And again, he probably knows this at some level 5/

    So we're getting into the end game. He can't save his presidency. He can, however, still hurt a lot of people. And he surely wants to 6/

    So from now on, until he's gone, I'm going to fire up my computer every morning in a state of existential dread 7/
    "For the person that we know in the daytime, we don't need to light a lamp to see his face at night." Ghanaian Proverb

  2. #11102

    Re: Politics Random Random

    October 23, 2017 Issue
    The Danger of President Pence
    Trump’s critics yearn for his exit. But Mike Pence, the corporate right’s inside man, poses his own risks.

    By Jane Mayer

    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.

    Pence’s odds of becoming President are long but not prohibitive...

    ...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. Gingrich went on, “Others have some influence, such as Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn. But look at the schedule. Pence has lunches with the President. He’s in the national-security briefings.” Moreover, and crucially, Pence is the only official in the White House who can’t be fired.

    Pence, who declined requests for an interview, is also one of the few with whom Trump hasn’t overtly feuded...

    ...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 leans so far to the right that he has occasionally echoed A.C.L.U. arguments against government overreach; he has, for instance, supported a federal shield law that would protect journalists from having to identify whistle-blowers. According to Bannon, Pence is “the outreach guy, the connective tissue” between the Trump Administration and the most conservative wing of the Republican establishment. “Trump’s got the populist nationalists,” Bannon said. “But Pence is the base. Without Pence, you don’t win.”

    On Election Night, the dissonance between Trump’s populist supporters and Pence’s billionaire sponsors was quietly evident. When Trump gave his acceptance speech, in the ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, he vowed to serve “the forgotten men and women of our country,” and promised to “rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, and hospitals.” Upstairs, in a room reserved for Party élites, several of the richest and most conservative donors, all of whom support drastic reductions in government spending, were celebrating. Doug Deason, a Texas businessman and a political donor, recalled to me, “It was amazing. In the V.I.P. reception area, there was an even more V.I.P. room, and I counted at least eight or nine billionaires.”

    Deason’s father, Darwin, founded a data-processing company, Affiliated Computer Services, and in 2010 he sold it to Xerox for $6.4 billion. A.C.S. was notorious for outsourcing U.S. office work to cheaper foreign-labor markets. Trump campaigned against outsourcing, but the Deasons became Trump backers nonetheless, donating a million dollars to his campaign. Doug Deason was enlisted, in part, by Pence, whom he had known and supported for years. “Mike and I are pretty good friends,” Deason said, adding, “He’s really the contact to the big donors.” Since the election, Deason has attended two dinners for wealthy backers at the Vice-Presidential residence.

    Among the billionaires who gathered in the room at the Hilton, Deason recalled, were the financier Wilbur Ross, whom Trump later appointed his Secretary of Commerce; the corporate investor Carl Icahn, who became a top adviser to Trump but resigned eight months later, when allegations of financial impropriety were published by The New Yorker; Harold Hamm, the founder and chairman of Continental Resources, an Oklahoma-based oil-and-gas company that has made billions of dollars through fracking; and David Koch, the richest resident of New York City.

    Koch’s presence was especially unexpected...

    Marc Short, the head of legislative affairs in the Trump White House, credits Pence for the Kochs’ rapprochement with Trump. “The Kochs were very excited about the Vice-Presidential pick,” Short told me. “There are areas where they differ from the Administration, but now there are many areas they’re partnering with us on.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, who has accused the Kochs of buying undue influence, particularly on environmental policy—Koch Industries has a long history of pollution—is less enthusiastic about their alliance with Pence. “If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers—period. He’s been their tool for years,” he said. Bannon is equally alarmed at the prospect of a Pence Presidency. He told me, “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”


    After Barack Obama was elected President, Pence became an early voice of the Tea Party movement, which opposed taxes and government spending with an angry edge. Pence’s tone grew more militant, too. In 2011, he made the evening news by threatening to shut down the federal government unless it defunded Planned Parenthood. Some Hoosiers were unnerved to see footage of Pence standing amid rowdy protesters at a Tea Party rally and yelling, “Shut it down!” His radicalism, however, only boosted his national profile. 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’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.

    ...In 2013, he proposed cutting the state income tax. An internal report by Americans for Prosperity described the proposal as an example of the Kochs’ “model states” program “in action.” Indiana Republicans, who had majorities in both legislative chambers, initially balked at the tax cut, deeming it irresponsible. But Americans for Prosperity acted as a force multiplier for Pence, much as it is now promising to do for Trump’s proposed federal tax cuts...But, in the view of Andrew Downs, the Indiana political scientist, “the tax cuts were fairly meaningless.” Residents earning fifty thousand dollars a year received a tax cut of about $3.50 per month. Pence claimed that the cut stimulated the economy, but John Zody, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, told me, “Our per-capita income is thirty-eighth in the nation, and not climbing.” The state recently had to increase its gas tax by ten cents per gallon, to repair its crumbling infrastructure.


    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 No. 1 challenge we face in Indiana is the ability to attract and retain talented people,” Oesterle said. “If the state is seen as bigoted to certain members of the community, it makes the job monumentally harder.” The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Oesterle said, “was not an issue of Pence’s creation”—it had “gurgled out” of the far-right fringe of the Indiana legislature. But, he added, “there was a lack of leadership.” In his view, Pence should have prevented it and other extreme bills from moving forward. “You can see it happening in Washington now,” Oesterle said. “He’s not that effective a leader, or administrator. Extremists grabbed the initiative.”

    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.”


    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. But he clearly had not anticipated the outrage he’d triggered, and then he had tried to save his career at the expense of his professed principles...

    In 2015, Ed Clere, a Republican state legislator who chaired the House Committee on Public Health, became aware of a spike in the number of H.I.V. cases in southern Indiana. The problem appeared to be caused by the sharing of needles among opioid abusers in Scott County, which sits across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. In a place like Scott County, Clere said, “typically you’d have no cases, or maybe one a year.” Now they were getting up to twenty a week. The area was poor, and woefully unprepared for a health crisis. (Pence’s campaign against Planned Parenthood had contributed to the closure of five clinics in the region; none had performed abortions, but all had offered H.I.V. testing.) That same year, the state health commissioner called Indiana’s H.I.V. outbreak a public-health emergency.


    Pence has also been criticized for his treatment of Keith Cooper, a former resident of Elkhart, Indiana, who spent nine years in prison for an armed robbery that he didn’t commit. He was released in 2006, but on the condition that he admit guilt, which made it impossible for him to get a decent job. The prosecutor and the Indiana Parole Board, citing DNA evidence and victim recantations, urged Governor Pence to pardon him immediately. But Pence dragged out the process for years. “He didn’t do a thing to help me,” Cooper told me. Pence finally left the decision to his successor, Governor Eric Holcomb, who is also a Republican. Holcomb granted Cooper a pardon within weeks of taking office. It was the first time in Indiana that a pardon was granted on the basis of innocence, rather than clemency.


    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.” As a result, he said, “the signs of a rapprochement are everywhere.” Whitehouse continued, “One by one, all the things that Trump campaigned on that annoyed the Koch brothers are being thrown overboard. And one by one the Koch brothers’ priorities are moving up the list.” Trump’s populist, nationalist agenda has largely been replaced by the agenda of the corporate right.


    On November 11, 2016, Christie was chairing a transition meeting, when, according to four sources, Flynn walked in with an ally, General Keith Kellogg. “Gentlemen, can I help you?” Christie asked. Ivanka Trump, who was a member of the transition team’s executive council, announced that she had invited them. Christie tried to reclaim control of the meeting, but Ivanka took over. Praising Flynn’s “amazing loyalty to my father,” she turned to him and asked, “General, what job do you want?” A participant at the meeting said, “It was like Princess Ivanka had laid the sword on Flynn’s shoulders and said, ‘Rise and go forth.’ ” (A source close to Ivanka didn’t deny the account, but said that it exaggerated her role, and that she was merely trying to show appreciation for Flynn’s support.)

    Flynn expressed interest in becoming Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense. Eric Trump, who was also on the team, asked Flynn if he had been out of uniform long enough to head the Pentagon. Flynn said that he could probably get a congressional waiver, but if not he’d settle for national-security adviser.

    A few hours later, Christie was deposed.


    In private, however, Pence has become a back channel for government figures who are frustrated by the impulsiveness and inattention of a President who won’t read more than a page or two of bullet points...

    ...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!”


    Many Americans have debated whether the country would be better off with Pence as President. From a purely partisan viewpoint, 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. Newt Gingrich predicts that Pence will probably get a chance to do so...“There is no success for Mike Pence unless Trump works—he cannot run far enough or fast enough to not get hit by the falling tree,” Klain said. “But he may think he can.” Evidently, the next chapter is on Pence’s mind. Over the fireplace in the Vice-President’s residence, he has hung a plaque with a passage from the Bible: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” ♦
    "For the person that we know in the daytime, we don't need to light a lamp to see his face at night." Ghanaian Proverb

  3. #11103

    Re: Politics Random Random

    How the GOP Tax Bill Could Squeeze Your 401(k)
    Talk of limiting the amount of retirement money that people can save before taxes is worrying the financial industry

    By Anne Tergesen and Richard Rubin
    Updated Oct. 20, 2017 1:18 p.m. ET
    Proposals floating around Washington to cap the amount that Americans can contribute before taxes to 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts are unsettling professionals in the retirement industry.

    Republicans are looking for ways to generate revenue to support broad reductions in individual tax rates. One idea is to limit the amount of pretax money households can sock away for retirement saving. Such a move would likely generate significant political blowback but it hasn’t been explicitly ruled out, stirring worry among industry lobbyists.

    Members of the House Ways and Means Committee are widely expected to release a version of the tax bill by mid-November. Specifics on a wide range of issues remain unclear. Emily Schillinger, a spokeswoman for the Ways and Means Committee, declined to comment.

    Lobbyists and others in the retirement and financial services industries who have spoken to congressional staff and committee members say lawmakers are looking at proposals that would allow 401(k) participants to contribute significantly less than what is currently allowed in a traditional tax-deferred 401(k). An often mentioned amount is $2,400 a year. It isn’t clear whether that would only apply to 401(k)s or IRAs or both.

    Currently, employees under age 50 can save up to $18,000 a year in a 401(k), while those 50 or older can set aside up to $24,000. In an IRA, the annual contribution limits are capped at $5,500 and $6,500 for the same age groupings. The 401(k) limits are scheduled to rise to $18,500 and $24,500 in 2018.

    There are two basic types of retirement accounts. With a traditional 401(k) or IRA, account holders generally get to subtract their contributions from their income. But they must pay ordinary income taxes on the money when they withdraw it, typically in retirement when many people are in a lower tax bracket.

    With the second variety, called a Roth 401(k) or Roth IRA, there is no upfront tax deduction but the money grows tax-free.

    Under some of the proposals being floated, contributions above the amount set for tax-deferred savings would have to go into a Roth account. The change wouldn’t affect existing balances in traditional 401(k)s and IRAs, those people said, and it is likely that any matching contribution from an employer would continue to go into a tax-deferred 401(k) account.

    Congress’s goal in making the switch is to reduce a tax break that is projected to cut federal revenue by $115.3 billion this fiscal year so the money can be used to pay for lower tax rates. The switch could boost government revenue over the next decade, the period when the tax bill will likely face a $1.5 trillion cost constraint.

    Shifting to Roth-style accounts would move tax revenue from the future to the near term. That would help Republicans meet budgetary targets now but could cause problems with a requirement that prevents the tax bill from expanding long-run deficits if they want to pass a bill without Democratic votes under a fast-track process.

    With the aim of targeting retirement tax incentives more directly at the middle class, lawmakers may also make changes to an underused tax credit that acts like a government match to retirement savings.

    If lawmakers enact these changes, many savers will face a choice between maintaining their current savings rate or their current take-home pay.

    For example, someone in the 25% income-tax bracket who puts $1,000 into a traditional 401(k) today would save $250 in taxes—for a net decline in take-home pay of $750. But if forced to use a Roth instead, that person would lose the $250 tax savings up front and take-home pay would decline by the $1000 that goes into the 401(k).

    As a result, many opponents predict all but the wealthy are likely to cut their contributions—an outcome that would stand to slow the growth of the asset-management industry.

    When the White House unveiled the outline of its tax overhaul plan in April, officials promised to preserve existing tax breaks for retirement plans. A more detailed plan released by the White House and congressional leaders in September pledged to retain “tax benefits that encourage work, higher education and retirement security“ but left open the possibility of changes to ”simplify these benefits to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.”

    Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said he was “skeptical” about the idea of lower pretax deferrals for retirement savings.

    Mr. Portman said Thursday that he didn’t want to make the decision just for revenue reasons.

    “I’m deeply concerned about it,” he said. “I don’t think you want to disincentivize retirement savings in any way right now.”

    Americans have saved about $7.5 trillion in 401(k)-type accounts, plus $8.4 trillion in individual retirement accounts, according to the Investment Company Institute, a trade group for mutual funds. But some researchers say a significant percentage of Americans haven’t saved enough to maintain their standard of living in retirement.

    Industry groups have an incentive to keep the status quo and are scrambling to preserve the tax benefits of the current system. Earlier this year, AARP joined with groups representing employers and asset managers—including Fidelity Investments, T. Rowe Price Group , Inc. and TIAA—to form Save Our Savings Coalition to lobby for the existing tax treatment of retirement plans.

    “Asset managers tend to not like the Roth approach,” says Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, which is studying the potential impact on savings rates of a Roth switch. Because taxes are taken out at the beginning, he said, assets in retirement accounts—and the fees these companies collect on them—are likely to be lower.

    Dave Gray, a senior vice president at Fidelity, said a $2,400 limit would give the company a “significant concern” and would essentially require trade-offs between the certainty of the immediate deduction and the prospect of tax-free retirement income.

    Mr. Gray, speaking Friday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, said that implementing such a system would be “extremely difficult” and could take the industry 12 to 24 months to implement.
    "For the person that we know in the daytime, we don't need to light a lamp to see his face at night." Ghanaian Proverb

  4. #11104

    Re: Politics Random Random

    OCT 20 2017, 3:36 PM ET
    Niger Ambush Came After ‘Massive Intelligence Failure,’ Source Says


    WASHINGTON — A senior congressional aide who has been briefed on the deaths of four U.S. servicemen in Niger says the ambush by militants stemmed in part from a "massive intelligence failure."

    The Pentagon has said that 40 to 50 militants ambushed a 12-man U.S. force in Niger on Oct. 4, killing four and wounding two. The U.S. patrol was seen as routine and had been carried out nearly 30 times in the six months before the attack, the Pentagon has reported.

    The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said the House and Senate armed services committees have questions about the scope of the U.S. mission in Niger, and whether the Pentagon is properly supporting the troops on the ground there.

    There was no U.S. overhead surveillance of the mission, he said, and no American quick-reaction force available to rescue the troops if things went wrong. If it weren't for the arrival of French fighter jets, he said, things could have been much worse for the Americans.

    Congress also has many unanswered questions about what happened, he said, including about the specifics of the mission that day and the accounts lawmakers have been given about the timeline of the attack and rescue.

    The aide said questions are being asked about whether the U.S. soldiers were intentionally delayed in the village they were visiting. He said they began pursuing some men on motorcycles, who lured them into a complex ambush. The enemy force had "technical" vehicles — light, improvised military vehicles — and rocket-propelled grenades, the official said.

    After the rescue when it became clear that one soldier was missing, "movements and actions to try and find him and bring him back were considered. They just were not postured properly [to get him]." The body of Sgt. La David Johnson was not recovered until nearly 48 hours after the Oct. 4 attack.

    The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but U.S. officials told NBC News that conclusions about an intelligence failure were premature.

    On Friday afternoon, Defense Secretary James Mattis met with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to discuss the Niger raid.

    Earlier this week, McCain said the committee had not been provided with the information about the Niger mission that it "deserves."

    Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said Congress will require more information from a Trump administration that is expanding counter terrorism operations across the globe.

    Trump is loosening the rules of engagement when it comes to lethal action against terrorists, and expanding the counterterrorism fight to different parts of the world, including across Africa, Graham said.

    "The war is morphing," he said. "You're going to see more actions in Africa, not less."

    In that context, Graham said, "I will insist that Congress is informed more often and in more detail," about military operations.

    He added, "As the war expands, as the military had more authority, Congress is going to require more information."

    Pentagon officials say operations in the region have already "tightened up" and there's been an operational "pause" while the U.S. military's Africa Command (AFRICOM) assesses the situation. U.S. officials believe the attack was carried out by a local terror group that claims association with ISIS.

    Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of AFRICOM since 2016, told Congress in March that only 20 to 30 percent of AFRICOM's needs for "intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance" flights were being met. The Marine Corps general said there weren't enough helicopters to find wounded or dead soldiers, and that African partners weren't able to help with recovery missions.

    "For personnel recovery," he said, "Africa Command relies heavily on contract search and rescue assets."
    "For the person that we know in the daytime, we don't need to light a lamp to see his face at night." Ghanaian Proverb

  5. #11105

    Re: Politics Random Random

    I wonder who the contractors are?
    "For the person that we know in the daytime, we don't need to light a lamp to see his face at night." Ghanaian Proverb

  6. #11106

    Re: Politics Random Random

    CNN Politics‏Verified account
    Follow Follow @CNNPolitics
    Sgt. La David Johnson was found nearly a mile away from the central scene of the ambush in Niger, officials tell CNN
    "For the person that we know in the daytime, we don't need to light a lamp to see his face at night." Ghanaian Proverb

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